Tuesday, August 31, 2010

AMC: Best channel on television

Many television channels lose their bite as the years go on. Channels that once begin with integrity and purpose slowly become hollow shells of themselves. TLC was once the learning channel, now it is devoted to reality shows about huge families or dwarfism (I am sure the fine people at TLC are just waiting for a dwarf family with seventeen kids). Court TV was once the O.J. Simpson network and now it is nothing but derivative reality shows. The list of sold out channels goes on with Syfy Channel, G4, TV Guide Network and MTV. For evidence of a channel currently going through this transformation look no further then The History Channel; which is becoming less about Hitler and more about white trash.

This qualifies as being on the History Channel?

There is, however, one channel that has grown into itself beautifully. It has become the best network on television today. With its original television department still in its infancy, the channel has not only managed to win the best awards in the business but has also dominated them. Through its bravery in creating programing and ability to retain excellence, AMC is the best place to go on television.

AMC (an acronym for American Movie Classics) never seemed like anything else but the poor man's TCM. AMC realized that they could never compete with the amount of class TCM has (Robert Osbourne has to be one of the coolest people ever) and decided to be more broad with their definition of movie classics. No longer showing films of the silver screen, AMC moved more into 80s action film territories. If TCM had the market cornered on timeless classics then AMC will be the "new classic" station.

In 2005 AMC experimented further by broadcasting the show Hustle. Hustle was a BBC program about a group of nicely dressed con artists who help dispense their own brand of justice (the kind of nice guy con artists that you never meet anywhere else but prime time television). Hustle, with all of it's polish, was an interesting choice because it contradicts the whole basis of the channel. Hustle, being a contemporary British program, is neither American, a movie, or a classic by a
ny definition. What it showed was that AMC was interested in televising something besides movies and that AMC had balls enough to put whatever they wanted in their slots.

In 2007 a show would premiere that would become a critical darling and give AMC the class it so desperately wanted. The show was Mad Men and it is as awesome as you have heard. A unflinching and not kitschy look at 1960s America through the prism of advertising and, more specifically, the character of Don Draper. Yes, Don Draper is as cool as you have heard. Don Draper is cooler then you will ever be.

Don Draper: Every man's man-crush.

In the three years that Mad Men has been in the Emmy Awards it has already accumulated 13 wins. Out of those wins are three consecutive Best Drama Awards in a row. Even with a relatively weak season they still managed to beat out Lost in their last season (suck it, Lost). Mad Men has dominated Best Drama ever since it's premiered. While shows such as The West Wing have also won three years in a row, it is important to mention the fact that AMC is a cable network. Cable has never gotten as much respect as networks or pay channels. With pay channels you get the freedom of having whatever content you want and with networks you get guaranteed audiences (in theory). Cable has always been the bastard child of the two, never having the freedom or the popularity of other channels.

Also sweeping the Emmys three years in a row is Bryan Cranston for Best Actor in a Drama series. Dexter fanboys may be crying foul that Michael C. Hall never gets to win. However anyone that has seen Bryan Cranston on Breaking Bad will realize how much he deserves this recognition. Also Dexter is overrated. Playing a cancer ridden, high school science teacher who decides one day to cook meth; Cranston explores a realm of human drama that few people could dream of. Not only does he succeed in this but seeing his work is astonishing. Yes, the dad from Malcolm in the Middle is the best actor today.
Frankie Muniz grew up to race cars in a 20-year-old mid-life crisis. He also has a big head.

AMC also has Rubicon which just recently premiered. As underwhelming as Rubicon is, it still makes for a good show and is better than most other television. Having two out of three masterpieces is still not too shabby. Premiering on Halloween is a new show for AMC called The Walking Dead. Based on a critically acclaimed comic book series, Walking Dead deals with a zombie outbreak in America and how people cope with it. Yes, AMC is making a zombie television series and it is going to be awesome. How am I so sure? Awesome source material plus fearless network plus the adaption being created by Frank Darabont equals what is going to be the best television ever. Frank Darabont helped directed Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Mist. This man has helped create some of the best movies in recent memory and you don't even know who he is. Shame on you.

There is no accounting for taste, I know that. I also understand the fact that Emmys are not the best gauge towards how good television is. The fact that The Wire has not only never won an Emmy but has also barely been nominated shows how faulty the awards can be (this is, of course, a topic for later discussion). Forget the Emmys then and see for yourself why these shows are the best around and deserve all the recognition they can get.

It's a damn shame The Wire never won.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Top 5 most disturbing movies from my childhood

I loved watching movies growing up. There was nothing I enjoyed more than putting a tape through the old turbo-rewinder (to make sure it was rewound all the way) and popping it into my VCR. When it came to fixing the tracking I was a child prodigy, knowing which knobs to twist in the exact way to make sure there were no lines on the screen. I have my mother to thank for introducing me to a lot of movies over the years and for illegally taping them off of cable. There were always those movies that made you wince though. The kind where you wonder what the creators were thinking. Why do these filmmakers hate kids so much to put these scenes in the movie? The following is a top five based on movies i saw during my own childhood. Three out of five of these films were made in the 80s so maybe that has something to do with it. People hated children in the 80's. Just because these movies are on the list doesn't mean I don't like them, because to be honest, these are some of my favorite movies to watch as a kid. Even now I enjoy watching them. I can't wait for the day I can finally pass these movies onto my kids and scare the living hell out of them. If you would like, dear reader, please feel free to include your own movies from your childhood.

5. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory:
Two words: Tunnel Scene. It wasn't the Oompa Loompa slave labor, the kids meeting their doom storyline or even the creepiness that is Slugworth. No, the scene most fast-forwarded by children everywhere (aside from the "Cheer-up Charlie" song. God that one sucked) is the infamous tunnel scene. It's like the writers were saying "Hey this is a pretty cheerful movie so far; let's give people nightmares for no reason whatsoever."

I quote this movie daily.

4. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure:
Believe it or not this was the first full-length movie Tim Burton directed (one day I may explain to you why Tim Burton sucks). A story about a person (to this day I don't know what Pee-Wee's age is suppose to be) and his beloved bicycle. The movie is insanely quotable and a lot of fun. Yes, I know Paul Reubens would be arrested six years after making this movie but he was caught whacking-off in a porn theater. It's hardly unheard of and it doesn't make him a crazy pervert. Anyway, this movie was awesome except for a scene where Pee-Wee has a nightmare about his bike complete with horrifying clowns and Satan himself (Note: the actor who played the villain Francis/Satan would go on to play John Wayne Gacy in a crappy movie. Adds another level of disturbing).

Maybe not as scary now but as a kid this was torture.

Perhaps even more frightening than that was the Large Marge scene. Picked-up by an intimidating woman truck driver, the aforementioned lady tells Pee-Wee about an accident that occurred that very same night years ago. The punchline to this story is two frames of horror that never seemed to end.

"Tell em Large Marge sent ya."

3. Little Monsters:

I loved the last two movies mentioned and watched them every chance I could. This movie I haven't seen as much but it left enough of an impact on me to fear the very mention of it. The movie stars Fred Savage as a misunderstood boy and Howie Mandel as the monster under his bed. (back when his stand-up act involved him putting gloves on his head. This was back when he could actually shake hands). The film also has Marv from Home Alone as Fred's father and Ben Savage, Fred's real life younger brother and future Boy Meets World actor, as the annoying little brother. The film was about adventures in a monster-world underneath every boy's bed. The problem is that if you stayed in the monster-world for too long you became a monster, making all the fun of mischief and junk food not as worth it. The monsters' one weakness was light, which made their faces melt in a way that makes Raider's of the Lost Ark jealous. All of the ingredients of being trapped as a monster, the dark world of the monsters, and the face melting made the movie pretty scarring.

Did I mention face melting?

2. The Brave Little Toaster:

The poster should of been the first clue.

It's a cute animated-musical film about sentient appliances and their search for their master. Think like Toy Story only about junk (a toaster, a vacuum, a lamp, a radio and an electric blanket). To sum up how scary this movie is in one paragraph would not do it justice. I stress the fact that every scene and song involves something putting the appliance gang in danger and scaring any poor kid who expected a normal Disney movie. I recommend this movie only to see how messed-up it is. With danger of death, nightmares, scary clowns and antagonist everywhere it's amazing how anybody would think it's okay for kids. Fritz the Cat is more child friendly than Brave Little Toaster. So please watch it and see for yourself, words cannot describe.

I rest my case.

1. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang:

Not as fun as it looks.

In all honesty, Brave Little Toaster should take the top spot. This is more a personal grudge towards Chitty Chitty Bang Bang than anything else. It was one of my mom's favorite movies growing up, she even had the lunchbox in elementary school. Imagine her excitement to finally share her childhood memories with her kids. It starts out innocently enough with Dick Van Dyke as the world's worst dad. Van Dyke plays a crackpot inventor who lives with his kids whose mother died a long time ago. Along comes a lady named Truly Scrumptious who finds his kids skipping school and steals their father's heart. The first half is innocent enough with wacky inventions, a plot involving candy and an old car. This is all fine and dandy until the second half of the story begins involving a German like country where children are outlawed (those wacky Germans). The two adults then spend the rest of the story trying to find the kids and rescue them from the evil aristocracy. Now a plot line involving kidnapping kids and putting them in dungeons is bad enough. The truly disturbing part is the introduction of the most vile character of all time: the Child Catcher.

That's the man's whole responsibility: to kidnap children.

He sniffs out children where ever they are hiding and lures them with promises of candy and ice cream. You'd think with the smallest amount of stranger-danger knowledge the children would know not to follow the creepy old man promising candy. I guess Dick was too busy inventing a flying car to teach them.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Jeff Bridges doesn't like greenscreen

I live in a house of crappy magazine subscriptions. Found on top of my cistern are trashy publications such as People (how I loathe thee) and Redbook (the Cosmo for moms). The only magazine of some interest to me is Entertainment Weekly. The last issue, August 20th, was the annual film preview for the fall season. In it was a quote from Jeff Bridges, who was once the coolest actor to of never won an Oscar (now that he has won an Academy Award he doesn't seem as cool).

Sorry Dude.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly about working on Tron: Legacy, Bridges had some things to say about working with green screen technology. "I had to get past some of the frustrations of not having what I enjoy as an actor—costumes, the set, another actor—and get with the new thing that's going down."

This quote from a respected actor perfectly illustrates some of the things wrong with green screen and reliance on computer effects in general. In essence it makes it hard for the actor to do his job. It does not engage the actor into the movie's world and at the same to it alienates the audience from that same world. The technology hinders the actor in reacting to their surroundings or different obstacles. Not only that but it must not make being an actor as fun as it once was. For example, instead of having a man dressed up in a monster suit you have a tennis ball on a string to help you act afraid. All the imagination in the world isn't going to help an actor get past the fact that they are surrounded by nothing. Really it's a whole different craft than real acting.

Now, I'm no cinematic Luddite saying we should get back to the days before computer-generated imagery but think about the classic movies that didn't have CGI to fall back on. Imagine: The Thing without practical special effects, Blade Runner without minitures or Aliens without men in suits. The best effects in Tron, famous for its introduction of computer effects, aren't even created on a computer. CGI just allows the filmmakers to get lazy and they end up relying on it too much. For every Avatar there is a Speed Racer. Green screening is just another way for filmmakers to tell their story and should not be the basis for a movie or considered the only tool in the toolbox. Remember that it is the same technology that allows local weathermen to give it's viewers the five-day forecast.

Meteorologist are either hot babes or dopey dudes, depending on what the station can afford.

I know that CGI is here to stay but it is my wish that filmmakers will one day remember that special effects don't have to be done on the computer and some of the best films relied on those computer-less special effects. I'm hoping that the novelty of it will one day wear off or maybe the novelty of life before CGI will become popular again. Filmmakers can get more creative with their movie making (just look at Wes Anderson's work on Fantastic Mr. Fox). Leave the hokey CGI to the Sci-Fi Channel (I refuse to call it Syfy) and make something truly engaging.

Friday, August 20, 2010

IPhone's facetime destroying face to face time

The commercial is heartbreaking. It begins on an image of a phone where we see the face of an old man. The man is jubilant to be shown something as the the box in the corner turns we see the face of the old man's granddaughter. The old man tries to hold in his feelings but his voice starts to break as he has a heart to heart with his son about their new roles in life.

As a commercial it works great. It details the product's strengths and it shows more then a cool feature: it shows how the feature can impact the lives of the users. There is something scary about this commercial though. Why isn't the grandfather meeting his granddaughter for the first time in person? While yes, if the grandfather was far away the Facetime feature works nicely but seeing a pixelated picture of your granddaughters face is no substitute for not being able to really meet this new person in person. I doubt any new grandfather out there would trade holding his granddaughter for a streamed image but even if it's a last resort it cheapens it.

The second iPhone commercial I saw was even scarier in this respect. It has a man and women, apparently in a relationship, talking about what they've been "working on for awhile". The man realizes what the woman is referring to and they both rejoice at the thought of the two becoming parents.

Now this commercial hints at two aspects of the story between these two: A: they've been trying to have a baby for a while now and B: they have had sex in the past few months. Now why would two people in a relationship need Facetime to be used in this way? The woman couldn't of told the man any other way? They see each other enough to try and have the baby but not enough to celebrate the results of their endeavor? I admit that is way too many rhetorical questions in a row but I was on a roll.

Now common sense dictates that phone conversations do not substitute face time when it comes to important matters. Hell, even high school couples know that it is bad form to break up through text messages. A feature like Facetime does not make the phone any better when it comes to giving important information. Now I doubt Facetime will create a big revolution or be the catalyst for those cool video phones we see in every movie set in the future. Let's hope that people realize that Facetime is not a proper replacement for actual face to face interaction and isn't one more step in the isolation of the individual.

Insert witty vampire pun here

Let's start off by saying that vampires are past the point of overexposure. I assume that most people, like myself, are tired of even hearing the word vampire (I've always preferred zombies personally). Twilight is, of course, to blame for this epidemic. With it's laborious storyline spanning four books and culminating into one big sex after marriage moral, it's ripe for parody. With that being said, I doubt anything is horrible enough to deserve it's own spoof movie.

Even their posters aren't trying anymore.

The spoof movie, the lowest form of cinema. While some spoof movies turn out solid (the first Scary Movie and Not Another Teen Movie), others are just pop culture mad libs. They are time capsules of the worst aspects of the time they were made. They meander from one stale reference to another to the point where you wonder why they even try anymore. The latter kind of spoof movie has one thing in common, the writer/director team of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (makers of such classics as Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans and Disaster Movie).

What are they laughing at? Maybe they rented Airplane!

Lets start off by saying that these two are not the new Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker. They aren't even the new Waynes Brothers. They may belong to the same school of comedy as ZAZ but they have none of the class (yes compared to Friedberg and Seltzer, ZAZ has class). They want to be ZAZ but fail so spectacularly at it. Their movies follow the same formula to the cringe inducing end.

By taking whatever genre they want and spicing it up with easy pop culture targets at the time (with gags involving such resilient icons like Amy Winehouse) the result becomes a mess destined for the bargain bin at your local supermarket. These movies are so bad that even Leslie Nielsen won't touch it.What you do have are Madtv refugees playing five roles a piece and doing that same shtick they did on Madtv when it started to suck (except for the Stuart sketches, those will always rule). Speaking of spoof movie regulars, I'm surprised to find that Tony Cox isn't in Vampires Suck anywhere. Maybe he was busy or maybe he wised up to whoring himself out to spoof movies.

He's probably mad that Warwick Davis gets all the good roles (funfact: both men played ewoks).

Really what it comes down to is parody for parody sake to give the failed sketch comedy actors someone to imitate. Pick someone to do an impression of and try to fit them into the patchwork story that comes out of the long list of fodder. What Friedberg and Seltzer do isn't writing and it's an insult to real comedy writers out there. I like to think of the reason for their existing careers is the same reason why a Saw movie comes out every year: they're easy to write and cheap to make. Producers are probably looking for the short money and hoping that enough people buy tickets in the first weeks that they see some profit. Really though, these movies are an insult to the business.

Vampires aren't cool anymore and having a spoof movie just shows how finished the genre is. Nowadays vampires are just too easy a target and it was only a matter of time before the hacks that are Friedberg and Seltzer decided to make a movie about it. The fact that a spoof movie is being made about vampires and Twilight to be specific shows how it's just too easy to make fun of them. I hate vampires nowadays but I hate spoof movies even more.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Shatner's new sitcom sparks obscenity debate

"The word 'shit' is around us," says William Shatner, "It isn't a terrible term. It's a natural function. Why are we pussyfooting?"

This just in, Shatner likes shit.

This quote may need some context, although the context doesn't help much. Premiering on September 23rd is a new sitcom starring William Shatner called $#*! My Dad Says, based on the popular Twitter feed by Justin Halpern called Shit My Dad Says. The feed recalls quotes created by his father, Sam Halpern. While television sitcoms are usually inspired by comedians' acts, now we have them being inspired by Twitter.

Now on one hand it somewhat makes sense to retain some form of the original title. By naming the show after the Twitter feed it identifies the source of the humor and allows fans of the website to find the show easily. This, however, is made tricky but the word shit in the title. CBS, attempting some middle ground, decided to change the word shit into jumbled symbols straight out of Beetle Bailey.

Oh Sarge, will you and Beetle ever get along?

By taking the middle ground nobody wins. The title is still considered offensive because of it's obvious allusion. CBS also loses because the title makes no sense now. How are you suppose to refer to the show without being forced to curse? Just trying to type the title into Google was a pain for myself, trying to figure out what order the symbols were it. Titles are suppose to be snappy and easy to remember (which is why i chose the awesome title for this blog), not about trying to figure out a password.

To be fair to the watchdogs out there keeping tabs on the devil that is television, does the word shit really belong on CBS Thursdays? I doubt parents want to have to worry about their kids learning about the word before they are ready (it seems to be around nine or ten that kids finally discover curse words and once they discover how easy it is, they do nothing but swear for the next year or two. I call this, the cursing phase). And whats a show with shit in the title doing on CBS anyway? CBS always seemed like the older people's network.

Diagnosis: Murder ran for EIGHT seasons on CBS with a viewership made up completely of women over 60 and myself when I was seven.

CBS has the most bland, white bread television around and that's why it's the best network around. When your edgiest sitcom is Big Bang Theory (which to be completely honest is a good television show) then you aren't exactly known for taking chances. I can expect a publicity stunt like this out of FOX but CBS should be above this. Although to be fair, if publicity factored into the reasoning behind the title at all then it was a brilliant decision. Who would care about a Shatner sitcom if it wasn't for its controversial title?

Part of what this all comes down to is the difference between two mediums: internet and television. With the internet you have the option of deciding what to look at and what not to. It's hard to imagine why so many people complain about being bored all the time (i.e. all my Facebook friends) when there is a limitless amount of entertainment on the internet. To actually find something takes some searching so you don't have to worry about being offensive. If somebody doesn't like cursing then they just wouldn't go to Halpern's Twitter feed. However, when you have a prime time show on network television (theoretically the most expected time of the day to get viewers on the most accessible channel for viewers) some responsibility needs to be taken into account.

Now on a personal note, I have no problem personally with cursing. While up till now I've tried to not curse on this blog for professionalism's sake, it is only a front. In real life i have no problems with cursing and curse all the time (I once accidentally dropped the f-bomb when talking to a priest in high school and, without realizing my mistake, continued to curse like a sailor in front of the padre). I owe my support of cursing to Lenny Bruce, a comedian from the 50's into the 60's. If you have ever heard a comedian curse on stage they owe a debt to Lenny Bruce. Lenny Bruce is the patron saint of anybody that has ever had to apologize for they foul mouth. Lenny Bruce was against censorship and was even arrested once for foul language in his act. Bruce would fight censorship until his death by overdose. It was his fight against censorship that broke him and fueled his heroin addiction that led to his death. This is why Lenny Bruce is my hero.

RIP 1925-1966

So do I personally care that Shatner has a sitcom coming out whose title alludes to shit? No not at all. I do see where some parents may object to the title however. The watch groups should not of fed into the hands of CBS though and just of let it go. I bet you that Shatner already had some blurbs written out for when the title created controversy. Without the controversy nobody would care about this show and even with a slight ratings bump because of that controversy it's still probably going to be canceled.

I give the show till the end of November.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Jacked up and good to go: Why StarCraft 2 is awesome

The moment has finally come. Years of waiting has come into fruition. I never thought the day would actually come but it has and all I have to say is: StarCraft 2 is worth the wait.

For the uninitiated, StarCraft is one of the most popular computer games played today. This is quite the achievement considering the fact that it came out in 1998. Just how popular is StarCraft? Consider the fact that it is basically South Korea's national sport or that it remained popular for 12 years

To put it into context, 1998 was the year 'N Sync debuted.

Is that not enough? Well then consider the fact that a 28 year old man once died from StarCraft related exhaustion. You read that correctly, a grown ass man died over his StarCraft addiction.

Over the years one would always hear rumors about StarCraft 2 but only enough to tease the loyal fan. A game this popular was bound to have a sequel, the question was when it would be released. To be honest I gave up hope on a sequel ever being released. Twelve years is a long time to wait for something. That's what makes July 27th all the sweeter. The second coming of StarCraft has finally arrived.

Hell, it's about time.

The question remains, is it any good? Does it live up to it's predecessor's name? Was it worth the wait or did Blizzard just take a crap in a box and ship it out with a cool cover? With the following behind the series, Blizzard would of still made a lot of money even if the game sucked (Halo series anyone?). Realizing this just makes me happy to report that StarCraft 2 is a complete improvement over the first game. One of the best games ever just got better.

Any possible improvement conceivable can be found in this sequel. While there are obvious improvements like graphics (the game better look better after twelve years in the making), it's the little details that shine. From troop management (using relay points for workers makes things a lot easier) to improved structures (I can't be the only person that was amazed by the supply depots), StarCraft 2 will shock you with how good it is.

Oh my God they go down now!

Some may be upset that StarCraft 2 has been broken up into three different games, one for each of the three races: Terran (the humans), Protoss (the aliens), and Zerg (the insect like cannon fodder). There are some that complain about just being able to play as Terran but I don't mind it since Terran is my preferred race anyway. There are some that complain about having to wait longer for the rest of the game but when you wait 12 years, what's another year? Lastly there are many that see the StarCraft 2 trilogy as a way for Blizzard to charge a player three time for one game. This argument shouldn't last after playing the first game however because there is enough production and playability in StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty to keep gamers busy until the next installment comes out. The single player is challenging, engaging and the fact that your decisions have an impact on some of the story allows for playability that the original game never had.

Simply put, if you have any remote interest in StarCraft or the kind of games that StarCraft represent, you will not be disappointed.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Louis C.K. and Eric Schaeffer: Good and Evil

Tuesdays at 11 on FX is a masterpiece of television. I say this in all sincerity. FX has always been a channel you can depend on for quality television (the only channel that beats it is AMC but that's because it has Mad Men and Breaking Bad). FX, home of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Rescue Me can now add another show to that pedigree. Louie, created by Louis C.K., has become one of my favorite shows.

Prepare to love this man America.

What Louis C.K. has done with his program is something that most fail at today: it shows something real. In a world saturated with reality shows (insert Jersey Shore joke here), life has never been more fabricated. Louis C.K. brings us back to the real world. Louie shows a world of absurdities that is a perfect reflection of just how empty life is. Dancing between poignancy and c*nt jokes, the man creates a tapestry where we are all aggressors in our own private hell. But Louis C.K. still finds the humor in each raw moment which is what makes him brilliant.

Many shows attempt to be deep or have a message and that's usually their first mistake. The mistake lies in the fact that they try. They try too hard for that matter. For this example I will pick on Eric Schaeffer because he is such an easy target. Schaeffer is, in a way, the complete opposite of Louis C.K. A semi-successful screenwriter and director, Eric Schaeffer represents every hack that is so convinced of his own talent that he will go from failed project to failed project like a script-bearing nomad to share his supposed genius.

This man is Satan.

Once upon a time Eric Schaeffer had a show on FX called Starved. It was a comedy centered around a group of people with eating disorders who stumble through life dealing with their problems. Hilarity, no doubt, ensues. Starved premiered next to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia but unlike It's Always Sunny, Starved was not picked up for renewal for it's second season. Some may make the argument that a show making fun of eating disorders was too controversial to continue, but the reality was Eric Schaeffer sucks. Not content with sucking on cable, Schaeffer moved to pay television to try his luck there. His new show, Gravity, premiered on Starz cable channel in April. Don't bother looking for it though because Gravity was just recently canceled at the end of June. Why was the show canceled? Because Eric Schaeffer sucks. The show involved a support group for suicide survivors and a wacky detective who is stalking one of the members. The detective is played by none other than Eric Schaeffer and he is just as annoying as he was in Starved.

Sensing a pattern here?

The reason why Schaeffer is such a hack is because he doesn't know how to write. He can't write characters who belong to this reality and any moment they are involved in is forced. Nothing flows naturally and even by the show's own internal logic everything is an uneven mess. Schaeffer replaces any true emotions with quirky piano music, like a laugh track for pretension. There is plenty of comedy to be found in tragedy, Eric Schaeffer just doesn't know how to find it and that is why he is a failure.

Apologizes for the Eric Schaeffer tangent but he is such an easy target that it's hard not to get worked up. Back to the original point, Louis C.K. succeeds at what Schaeffer can only dream of. No matter how absurd the situation Louis C.K. is able to bring it to a kind of reality. This is his view of the world and we are along for the ride. No matter how insane the situation becomes we are right there next to Louis and going along with him. He invites the audience and doesn't slap them in the face with pretension. Like Schaeffer, Louis had a previous failed television show. Lucky Louie premiered on HBO and was actually successful, it was only canceled because HBO didn't feel it fit with their other shows. Like how Schaeffer went from cable to pay channels, Louis went the opposite route and found his home at Starved's previous network: FX.

FX, you're my hero.

One can describe Louie as a show that illustrates the life of a comedian but it doesn't do justice to what Louis C.K. has pulled off. On the stage doing stand-up between vignettes, Louis is in control and confident, it's in the real world that Louis finds himself lost and observing an absurd world that we all live in. It's on the stage that he tries to make sense of it all but outside the environment he can do no more than observe one absurdity after another. It is in these moments that Louis plays the role of straight-man for the audience. Moments aren't always funny but we are left to decide for ourselves what to laugh at or what to let sit with us. Louis shows the most personal and vulnerable parts of his life and the viewer benefits from it all.

And in the end good won out over evil, because Louie was renewed for a second season last week and Eric Schaeffer is still looking for anyone that will read his next script. The world is just after all.

For those that aren't familiar with Louis C.K.'s stand-up, here's one of my favorite bits from him.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Glenn McCoy and his exclamation points

I try to read the newspaper everyday. Nevertheless, I don’t always have time to read the whole thing. Whether it’s because I’m about to be late for work or I’m almost out of cereal to eat, I need to get the most paper enjoyment I can in a small time frame. It is during times like this I go to the editorial/opinion section of the paper.

Is it fair and balanced? No. Does it tell me all the information I need to know to be a properly informed citizen? No. Does it have comics? Yes. And that’s what counts.

These two pages are the most concentrated dose one can find in the newspaper. It has editorials from somewhat respectable people, crazy people with their crazy thoughts and cartoons for when you don’t have time for both news and Family Circus. The letters to the editor are especially interesting to read because news isn’t important unless you have shut-ins writing to their local paper about it.

I recognize the fact that a blogger joking about crazy people's opinions is a pot and kettle relationship.

Political cartoons have always been a respected form of commentary. This nation was even helped created by the "Join, or Die" political cartoon created by Benjamin Franklin. Cartoons were always appreciated because they helped get the point across easily even if a person didn’t know how to read. History textbooks would also be a lot more boring without political cartoons to look through while you are bored during American History 2 (American History 1 and American History X both being course pre-requisites). However, there is one man whose cartoons create no feeling inside me but hatred for its creator. I am talking about Glenn McCoy.

McCoy's version of the pot and kettle.

I don’t just hate him because he’s too conservative for my taste. I don’t just hate him because his drawings suck. I don’t just hate him because he has the subtlety of a train blowing by your bedroom window. If I had to choose one reason why Glenn McCoy is a hack, it boils down to exclamation points.

I have never been a fan of the punctuation mark. It has no room in a newspaper and unless you’re Dostoevsky I don’t want to see it in prose writing. It’s completely unnecessary and does not belong anywhere but in a badly butchered text message from your 11 year old cousin. McCoy uses them not just occasionally but all the time.

His cartoons are all the same. They are filled with right-wing knee jerk reactions to any small issue and the image is usually two people yelling at each other. Nobody talks to each other in these cartoons. It is all caricatures having one big argument. People don't have conversations in his cartoons, they just yell.

And the exclamation points aren't enough to convey how loud these people are yelling.

Any possible message that can be taken from his cartoons is completely vanquished by his ham-fisted approach to the respectable art. Once you get past all his faults (between the lack of subtlety and art that makes one's eyes bleed) and actually read the cartoons you discover that they are half thought out gripes about misunderstood policies. McCoy goes for the emotion full throttle and leaves everyone behind in his ink blotted mess.