Posts Tagged 'TV'

Deadman’s A-Z Guide to Living: Inertia

Observing the mistakes and silliness of others is a perfectly useful way to learn how to live the well-lived life.

For instance, my mother’s mother, may her soul rest in peace, was a tremendously loving and caring grandmother, but I probably learned at least as much about life from her flaws as from her positive attributes. In particular, I was able to see the damage my Bobba wrought (to herself as well as others) as she bitterly held onto grudges and regrets as if they alone could sustain her, and often retaliated to perceived insults with petty nastiness.

I realized such behavior had to be terribly unsatisfying, and ultimately unproductive, and believe I have embraced a much healthier way to deal with people and events that disappoint me (I forgive easily. I focus on the positives. I take my share of the blame. I think before responding, and try to consider the long-term implications of my actions).

Alas, I’m beginning to realize that a fair amount of my A-Z Guide to Living will also end up serving as a cautionary tale, full of advice which I believe to be critically important but am not following for whatever reason.

Give charity generously, unlike me.

Avoid distractions, unlike me.

Overcome your fears, unlike me.

And now, for my latest lesson, I want you to fight inertia, unlike me.

In physics, inertia is the resistance of any object to a change in its state of motion. When you throw in the additional effects of friction and gravity one encounters here on Earth, inertia basically means that things have a tendency to be still and tethered to the ground.

Or specifically: My ass has a tendency to be tethered to the couch, watching TV.

My college roommate and I used to comment all the time about how our lives were basically ruled by inertia. Recognizing we were powerless to stop it, we embraced its presence, bowing to the ever-looming God of Inertia and offering it regular sacrifices, which of course meant continuing to sit on our asses and watch TV.

It’s no surprise that the root for inertia comes from the Latin iners, meaning lazy.

Unfortunately, with the passing years, inertia tends to exert an even more powerful hold. Energy levels deplete as responsibilities build, so sitting on your ass during those precious moments of free time almost always seems the most appealing option. Indeed, nowadays when I find myself stymied by inertia, it often takes a tremendous amount of unexpected force – such as the passing odor of freshly baked M&M/fluff cookies – to get my ass to move.

I probably don’t need to tell you the problems that will develop as you let inertia work its voodoo, but like those scary stop-smoking commercials, I’m going to anyway: Atrophied muscles, weight gain, poor vision, loss of brainpower, diminished creativity, decreased sex drive, general ennui, a disturbing accumulation of knowledge of lame reality TV shows.

And inertia will increasingly sneak its way into other parts of your life, as well. It will keep you in unhealthy relationships and unfulfilling jobs. It will make the prospect of change seem like the most frightening thing in the world. Its primary goal is to turn your life into one big rut.

Seriously, you must fight inertia with all of your might.

Go to the gym. Play a sport. Find a fun new hobby, like say, blogging. Make love to your wife. Cook dinner. Meet up with friends (but not my college roommate, especially if there is a couch involved). Always be moving. Always be changing.

Yes, it is tiring to battle the God of Inertia, but the most appropriate place to sit your ass down is the coffin, not the couch.

I won’t join you in your fight, of course … but if they make it into a reality TV show, I’ll likely watch.

MOFT: Episode 18 (Monk)

I have to apologize for my prolonged posting absence, but things have been getting hectic. And with several trips upcoming, including two jaunts to Vegas (one my bachelor party!!), a pre-wedding party in my hometown St. Louis, a wedding (with still a millions things that need to be done), a minimoon, and various other things happening all in the next couple of months, I have a feeling it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

One thing I still amazingly always find time for, however, is television. Fortunately, it’s the summer so the Tivo is rather sparse, but one of my favorite shows – Monk – recently started airing new episodes. Alas, it is the final season for the underappreciated comedic detective series on USA Network, which wins the latest My One Favorite Thing of the Week award. I encourage everyone to check out the last few shows on Friday night 9/8c

The strong character ensemble team is easily the best thing about Monk. Tony Shalhoub has received well-deserved accolades, including a couple of Emmys I believe, for his performance as the title character – the lovable, OCD-afflicted, genius detective Adrian Monk. Monk, who was kicked off the San Francisco police force after suffering from mental illness when his wife was killed in a car bomb, is afraid of just about everything. And somehow Shalhoub has managed to keep all of Monk’s numerous tics and neuroses from getting stale and annoying over the years. Along with Hugh Laurie’s Gregory House, Shalhoub has created one of the two most memorable TV personalities of the past decade.

But truthfully, the rest of the Monk cast is just as strong, each of the main actors creating endearing, funny characters who play off of Monk’s oddities extremely well. The only other performer you’ll probably recognize is Ted Levine, Monk’s former boss Captain Leland Stottlemeyer, as he was Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs. He’s terrific, gruff and perpetually exasperated with the antics of Monk and his own hilariously inept underling Lieutenant Randy Disher.

But my favorite non-Monk actor is probably Traylor Howard, who plays Monk’s assistant Natalie Teeger. She is tough but caring, patient but strong-willed, and she gives as good as she takes. And even more impressively, I honestly first hated her when she came on the show because she replaced a character I thought was awesome, Monk’s original assistant Sharona.

Now I don’t want to oversell the show. The writing is pretty good, but the plots usually aren’t much to speak of, and you’ll probably figure out most of the ‘mysteries’ (many of them taken from recent headlines) long before Monk finally solves the case near the end of the show. I’m sure fans of shows like Columbo and Murder She Wrote will often feel a strong case of deja vu.

But still, it’s top-notch entertainment, and I’m sure going to miss Monk and the gang when they disappear from the airwaves for good next month.

Questions: Bringing the funny…

So earlier this week on, we had an animated discussion about the funniness, or lack thereof, of Larry David and Curb Your Enthusiasm. To my surprise – and I’m talking like I-just-found-out-I-was-adopted or my-girlfriend-once-had-a-penis type of surprising – a number of my fellow dagbloggers found the show annoying and dumb; one of them called the show ‘an atrocity’ and Larry David the ‘least funny on-screen performer ever given a screen on which to perform.’

So I figured it’d be fun to use my question column to find out once and for all where we all stand when it comes to the funny. As always, check out the post on for reader answers.

1) Ellen’s a lesbian, so I’m not sure she entirely counts.

Can women be as funny as men at stand-up? Which woman alive today do you find the funniest (If at all possible, please embed a clip of this woman being funny as I will have trouble believing it without video proof)

2) Jim Almighty (and Almighty Bad)

Jim Carrey is a paradox. i think he has been at times in his movie career one of the funniest comedic actors of all time and at other times, among the most annoying and unfunny ones. Rank these Jim Carrey comedy movies: Me, Myself and Irene; The Mask; The Cable Guy; Liar Liar; Ace Ventura: Pet Detective; Dumb and Dumber; Fun With Dick and Jane; Yes Man; Bruce Almighty (Leave out any you havent seen).

3) Obama introduces the new Guantanamo

By some cruel twist of fate, you are forced to spend 3 days straight with some sort of Bob Saget entertainment. You have three options: You can either spend the time watching a marathon of Full House episodes, listening to him host America’s Funniest Home Videos (without getting to see the videos), or having him waterboard torture you. What do you choose?

4) Two and a Half Chuckles per episode

For the last week of 2008, Two and a Half Men was once again in the top 10 broadcast TV shows, according to Nielsen (It was the only comedy in the top 10, and has been a top-20 show every year in the six seasons it’s been on the air, averaging right around 15 million viewers). This will be a three-part question:

4a) How often do you watch the show? a) Always b) A lot c) Occasionally d) Two and a half times e) Never

4b) The show is the top-rated comedy on TV, but what current sitcom do you think belongs at the top of the list?

4c) Does it bother you that Charlie Sheen makes $825,000 an episode??

5) Talk Show Hosts

Which one of these doesn’t belong? David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Craig Ferguson, Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, Howard Stern, Stephen Colbert.

6) When’s the next Santa Clause coming?

Every holiday season, it’s pretty much a given that Hollywood studios are going to force upon us at least one crappy Christmas comedy. What’s the most recent Christmas comedy you saw? What’s the best one you’ve seen? What’s the worst?

7) Longest-running sitcoms

I think we can all agree – yes even Orlando and Articleman – that Two and a Half Men doesn’t come close to being one of the top sitcoms of all time. Rank these long-running hit shows (all which were on for 10 or more years):

  • The Simpsons
  • Cheers
  • King of The Hill
  • M*A*S*H
  • Happy Days
  • Married … With Children
  • Friends
  • The Jeffersons
  • Frasier
  • South Park
  • Murphy Brown

8) SNL stands for Show Nevermore Laugh-worthy

Name the four funniest SNL cast members (Try to give one from each decade, starting with the 70s). And what about the best News Update anchor?

9) Pull my finger.

Are farts funny?

10) $200 million-plus comedies

The following comedies all made more than $200 million in U.S. box office, according to IMDB (I left out animated or blatant kids films). Which is your favorite? Which is your least favorite?

  • Austin Powers: Spy Who Shagged Me
  • Wedding Crashers
  • Back to the Future
  • Mrs. Doubtfire
  • Bruce Almighty
  • Men in Black
  • Meet the Fockers
  • Forrest Gump
  • Beverly Hills Cop
  • Ghostbusters

MOFT: Episode 5 (Californication)

I don’t think 2008 was a very good year for pop culture.

The Hollywood writers’ strike seemed to have lingering effects, delaying the return of some of my favorite TV shows past the point of anticipation all the way to indifference. Probably can’t blame the strike, but most of the year for movies was also generally a disaster, with the summer slate being a particular disappointment (I was even let down by The Dark Knight).

It was miss after miss on the reading front for me as well, with several much-hyped books, like Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and O’Neill’s Netherland leaving me cold and unsatisfied. And our most exalted Prophet has admitted that it wasn’t a particularly great year for new music, either.

Maybe it had something to do with the election, but late in the year I felt a renewed sense of hope and optimism that things would turn around in pop land. 30 Rock, The Office and House returned in fine form to the small screen (Even Heroes got better). At the cinema, The Wrestler provided quality entertainment, and most of the late-season Oscar contenders all seem worthy of their accolades. My brother has supplied me with a robust stack of some fine new music, including The Fleet Foxes’ excellent disc.

And most excitingly, I rekindled my love with Californication during the barren TV holiday season, watching all 12 episodes of the Showtime program’s second season in rapid-fire succession (thank you, on-demand technology). The show, which stars David Duchovny as a frustrated novelist seeking inspiration in a soulless and sex-obsessed Hollywood, kicks off 2009 as the first My One Favorite Thing of the week.

Why do I love Californication so much? Well, first, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. The writing is at times too literate. Duchovny’s character, Hank Moody, always spouts just the perfect line when he’s trying to seduce a woman, or when he’s verbally sparring with a rival. They’re great lines and always make me laugh, but they also make Moody appear too smooth and somewhat contradict his otherwise very fallible human characteristics.

Even worse, some of Californication’s most profound wisdom is uttered by the show’s children – such as Moody’s a-bit-too-precious young daughter, Rebecca – which strains the bounds of credulity (in a way that i think also detracted from the realism in the movie Juno).

Also, the show’s plot developments usually manage to be at once both highly implausible and totally predictable.

Yet these flaws are really just minor complaints. Californication boasts some of the most memorable characters and situations on TV today, with some of the best, cleverest discussions about sex, and relationships, and art, and parenting, and a hundred other interesting topics, all the while navigating that fine line between comedy and pathos better than any series I can remember watching.

The show is anchored by Duchovny, in a convincing portrayal of a character who is at his core a good-hearted, moral family man, but who just can’t escape his demons and completely grow up. It appears that given what we now know about the actor in real life (i.e. his sex addiction), Duchovny was born to play Hank Moody. Even if there’s not a lot of acting going on there, I’m still very impressed (Duchovny has a surprisingly impeccable comedic timing).

The other main asset of the show is the mother of Moody’s child, Karen Van der Beek. The terrific and stunning Natascha McElhone plays the Baby Mama as the perfect straight foil to Moody. She is brilliant, responsible, and wise, but she’s not perfect either (her affair was the initial reason the two broke up) and more often than not empathizes with Moody’s restlessness and forgives his various transgressions. She is also clearly the love of Moody’s life (and vice versa), and you can’t help but root for the two to live happily ever after, even though you know the show will not – cannot – allow that to happen.

Aside from their daughter, the two main characters are surrounded by some of the most shallow, immature, pathetic creatures, including Moody’s best friend Charlie Runkel, a Hollywood agent and sexual pervert who loses his job after being taped repeatedly masturbating at his office desk; and Mia Lewis, the manipulative teenage daughter of Karen’s fiancee from Season One, who after having an affair with Moody ends up stealing his novel and selling it as her own.

Season Two introduced several new characters in that same mold, with the highlights being the wildman record producer (and Moody’s Doppelganger) Lew Ashby and the self-help guru/fraud Julian.

Yet despite their eccentric, juvenile behavior, almost all of the recurring characters manage to retain a modicum of dignity, earning important empathy points from the viewing audience.

Even though I was not a fan of the way the second season ended – another one of those frustrating, predictable plot developments – it did lend itself nicely to transition in a third season, which Showtime has announced will be on its way later this year.

I can’t wait.

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August 2016
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