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Sittin’ On The Dock of Pop Culture…Biding Time (Cue Off-Key Whistling) March 29, 2007

Posted by doctorolove in Movies, Pop Culture Rants, Sports, TV.
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It’s the pop culture equivalent of down time. The equivalent of that horrid time of the school year between MLK Day and Spring Break when there is absolutely no major holiday to let off steam. It’s the equivalent of waiting to see the doctor, only the doctor is a really cool piñata with Crème Eggs, gold doubloons and naked pictures of Kim Fields circa the Tootie days. It’s the dogdays of spring where those of us who drool over all aspects of pop culture rescind our spit ducts like reversed Pavlov dogs. It’s the time of the year WHEN ABSOLUTELY NOTHING happens in the world of sports, movies and TV.

Think about it. In the world of movies, it’s that icky period for most major studios and more than a few “major” indie houses. They’ve just unleashed all their Christmas blockbusters and arty, Oscar-caliber movies. They’ve even dropped a star studded romantic comedy on us to siphon some cash from guys who like cheap Valentine’s Day dates. And we are just a few mere weeks from the summer movie season, where every explosion, every gore filled cop buddy flick and every star studded gross out laugh fest has been screened, tweaked and rescreened to within an inch of the script’s life. SO for about t two months, studios are forced to release films like 300 or Ghost Rider. Sure, each will take home 100 million or so in receipts, but the studios know that each of these would be swept under the rug by movies that have more going for them in the summer. I mean, 300 lacks the major aspect of a great summer movie: Plot. Oh, and acting. And line delivery. And general merit to overall society. Though, 300 is a major Dog Day problem solver. It answers to both men and women. Guys get visceral blood and guts as well as women with what can only be described as Princess Leia in Jabba the Hut lingerie, but as if it was designed by that smarmy guy who sat behind you in 10th grade French. Women get sweaty men, clothed even less than their female counterparts, sweating and running into one another. The dog days usually gives us garbage but 300 solves that age old problem of just how to get through the crap.  If you exploit it, they will come. Exploitation doesn’t work for the summer, at least not when the next week, there’s something coming out that may just exploit something better. Simple exploitation when there is nothing to compare it to jogs our Pavlovian side. This film could signal the death of the dog days. Well, at least for movies.

Because TV, well, there’s that old chestnut. Sweeps are over and not coming back for at least two more months. It’s re-run time for our favorite shows. We’ve already Tivoed or discussed on message boards everything we are seeing again. And unless it’s Lost, you probably didn’t miss the nuances the first time (Nuance is a word they just don’t understand on Grey’s Anatomy)  Sure, it’s nothing compared to summer when clip shows and  bad overplayed movies dot the network landscape. TV tries to fool us by released the shows they didn’t think would work back in September. They try packaging them not with re-runs, but with “See What You Missed.” Are they really that stupid that they think that our schedules have diminished any less that now, some five months later, we have time to watch what we couldn’t find time to watch then? Actually, yes, because they package it with American Idol or The Amazing Race. There is no re-hashing of live (or semi-taped) reality shows. You have to be there when it happens. And the TV people know this. They know that with these reality shows, you can’t afford to miss out, lest we be the oil encrusted third wheel at the water cooler the next morning. SO they package these new show with their new returning reality show and we are forced to watch. Usually because the sudden heat has zapped our energy and we just don’t have the stomach for anything else in the Vast Wasteland. So maybe, TV is fixing the dog days.

But we just can’t save sports. And there is no amount of talking it out.  We are smack dab in a grey area. Baseball doesn’t really start for another month (Watching the first few games of any season is like watching a baby learning to walk…and the baby’s not yours and has had a few TGI Friday’s Hi Octane Iced Teas) Football is now over and while watching players being drafted is more exciting than what we got now, even that isn’t for a few weeks. Basketball and Hockey have playoff races, though, right. Besides the fact that in order to find either sport on TV nowadays you need a compass, a TV Guide and a Sherpa wearing a 1976 Lew Alcindor jersey, the games, well, they suck. The new point system in hockey is tougher to figure out than any baseball statistic (and those only matter in fantasy games.) And basketball’s new parity has resulted in teams tanking their seasons faster than the Germans tore out of Leningrad (Oh that’s right…a history reference…and it’s probably anachronistically incorrect…That’s right…an SAT word…also probably incorrect.) The teams that are in contention are so pitiful, it’s like a game of Hot Potato that 20,000 people are paying 50 bucks a pop to see. Sports are garbage right now. And though TV has its reality and movies have bloody Trojans, we have nothing. Can that be fixed? Probably not. And don’t even give me your XFL debate. It’s not football if you cannot get frostbite while watching it. And soccer is even harder to find than other sports. And I sprung for the “Direct TV package with Sherpa service.” Don’t use him for that but his tea is magical.

So for now, we wait. And maybe that’s good. Because have you seen the black suit people? I rest my case. And my tastes. For now.

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That’s Why It’s Difficult…Difficult Like Saturday Morning March 23, 2007

Posted by doctorolove in Pop Culture Rants, TV.
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Broadcast TV, glad you could make it here today. Can I get you a Fresca? Perhaps a Cinnamon Pop Tart with the crusts cut off? You’re good? Okay..look I think I need to get serious. And we’re not talking Yahoo Serious so don’t expect me to go all Young Einstein on your ass. Something’s happening here. What it is is pretty damn clear.

I admit I haven’t been hanging out with you much since the mid nineties when I was actually able to afford something more than foil covered rabbit ears. I mean, you have to know that with the extreme speciality of cable that you have no shot. I’m paying boatloads for it so I’m almost contractually obligated to watch my cable no matter how bad it is (thus explaining my knowledge of all things Beastmaster related). But I’m coming to you today for reasons you may not have seen at first when you made this monumental decision that came to my attention recently.

It was last month when I accidentally found myself awake on a Saturday morning (That is only sort of true. Replace accidentally with still drunk) Feeling an odd familiarity with that time of the week, I searched my vomit infused soul and realized that perhaps it was my inner child fighting his way through a whiskey infused haze and imploring me to return to my youth and watch the one thing that made me happy when I was a child: The Saturday Morning Cartoon Block. (Well, I also squealed at the episodes of GI Joe when they showed the Baroness in a bikini…ah, the easily placated hormones of youth.)

The Saturday Morning Cartoon. Simple, yet fully ensconced in every mind of every thirty something in this nation. You, TV, did it and did it well. No matter what your cartoon tastes weaned to, the gods at Broadcast TV gave it to you. You liked fluttery ponies and rainbows, you got it. You liked lasers and pithy one-liners created solely to sell action figures, they had that too. You had Snorks (Smurfs underwater), Trollkins (Smurfs in trees), the Littles (Smurfs in your walls), Monchichis (Smurfs as strangely haired tiny Japanese monkeys) and the Smurfs (Smurfs as, well, Smurfs). The Saturday Morning Cartoon (and yes, its capitalized to leave no doubt as to its royal status in pop culture history) was everything a child could want and everything a parent could need. Get your children up early enough on Saturday that they would tire out by a decent hour so you could do “adult” stuff. It was the babysitter you didn’t have to pay. And it all came with a noon time limit. When the afternoon sports started, your child would have to find other things to do. No more cartoons…well, then we’ll re-enact them outside. It was the rock star of TV to the under 12 set. Networks took out blocks of evening broadcast time to announce their fall lineup usually with the hot bubblegum star of the moment (Nothing beats Debbie Gibson telling you just what to expect on the upcoming season of The Real Ghostbusters.)

Yet here I was a few Saturdays ago, anxious to see just what new animation my future children might be grooving on. And I was hurt, dismayed, even a little disturbed to find…no freaking cartoons. I saw a few strange things that may have either been animation or maybe the morning news that just looked weird as I fought back alcohol poisoning. There were a few “Kid-coms,” which thanks to Saved by the Bell, are still all the rage. But these “kid-coms” are not the replacement the Saturday Morning block deserves. I mean, even a child has heard the re-hashed jokes and strangely Afterschool Special like lessons these shills are selling. And I was even more than dismayed to see not one, but two things by the Discovery Channel. That’s right…the Saturday Morning Cartoon has been replaced by that science teacher who always smelled strangely like wet chalk and pastrami. RIP, Cartoons. But it goes much deeper than that.

Now, I don’t need the cartoons anymore. I have Adult Swim and strangely erotic Japanese Anime (which, if you stick around long enough, always guarantees a pink haired, big eyed female in schoolgirl skirts being courted by a laser infused squid of some sort). And the kids nowadays have DVD in the car, the playroom, the bathroom and the tiny space in their closet not taken up by Barney paraphernalia. So, don’t weep for them Argentina. No, there is a much bigger casualty, TV. You have single handedly destroyed the lives of hundreds of cereal mascots.

Think about it. During you Cartoon blocks, you had no less than 576 hours of commercials starring tiny mythical creatures hawking every flavor, color, shape and sugar level of breakfast cereal. And what were most kids eating during the watching of said ads? That’s right: Cereal. Perhaps it was the high sugar ratio that enabled their blood streams to pump fast enough that it made the flashy and staccato animation styles easier to digest. Or maybe it was the Big Brother like brainwashing. You’re eating the cereal and there’s someone one telling you to buy more and all the while the good feelings being laid on to you by Speed Buggy are reinforcing your karmic perfection.  God, if the Democrats had figured out that shill, we’d still think the word Bush was a cheap buy you buy at NASCAR events.

Yet once the cartoons were gone, these creatures had no outlet. You can’t have Cap’n Crunch gallivanting around on a rickety wooden ship amongst the Clairol ads and Maybelline commercials of soap operas. And Snap, crackle and Pop would surely be stomped by late night infomercials. So the cereal industry took a hit. Sure, the world may blame childhood obesity and my generations high level of Teenager-Onset Diabetes, but I’m a realist. And I blame you.

How bad has it gotten? Count Chocula roams the tenements and brothels of Romania looking for anything sweet. The only work FrankenBerry gets is as a bouncer at gay clubs on Halloween. The Trix Rabbit gets front billing on Easter weekend at the local mall and then spends the rest of the year sweeping up the corridors behind the Spencer Gifts (Letting everybody design their room like a college Freshman’s dorm since 1975). And we all still lament the Cinnamon Toast Crunch chefs who were convicted of illegal drug trafficking in 1998 (Gives new meaning to the words “Oh, this…that’s just powdered sugar.”) Cap’n Crush running half ass tours of the East River. The degradation goes on and on.

We may not be able to save them now, but there’s a whole generation of sprites, pixies and colorfully hued specters that can still have their shot. But we need to bring back the cartoon block. Still worried about Sugar? We have Splenda and Saccharine now. And sure they may cause brain damage and serious hypertension, but are a few less twenty something worse than unhappy cartoon characters with a bunch of cereal to move? Think about it.

So, TV thanks for listening. I implore you, let go of your bad Saturday morning programs. I mean, come now, you are still employing JD Roth. And if there’s anything worse than the death of animation and the demise of the advertising icons of my sugar cerealed youth, that may be it.

Well that and the fact that Tony the Tiger just charged me twenty bucks to do my taxes. He needs the money. And yes, the money I get back from the IRS was GRRRRREAT. (That one was too easy.)

Hollywood Master Plan #84:Dead People, Computers and Shake and Bake (And I Helped!) March 11, 2007

Posted by doctorolove in Movies, Pop Culture Rants, TV.
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The big debate rolling through Hollywood like food poisoning at a Taco Bell is just when will we reach the point that we don’t need actors anymore. Computer science in film has reached a point that we can recreate blades of grass, hair sweat, even an inflated ego that causes an actor’s brow to over furrow when he’s trying to win his People’s Choice Award. The past five computer-generated films have grossed combined more than the GNPs of all of Africa (Please note, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, made a grand total of $86.10 and does not count in this example since it falls victim to the Video Game Corollary that states no video game movie would be successful.) Hollywood is soon to be in the hands of several thousand geeks who know more about the inner workings of Klingon verb conjugation than actual filmmaking. When will we see the death of real live people in film and TV?

Well, I have to tell you, it’s happening now. Hollywood has already started prepping us for it now. And it’s not in the way you’d expect. Let me explain…No, there is too much…let me sum up.

There was a time in the seventies when all you needed to solve a crime on Television was one of several things. You needed intuition and dumb luck (Columbo), you needed a cool car (Magnum P.I.), you needed a partner or sidekick (Cagney and Lacey) or even in some cases an AARP card and a penchant for 8.95 spaghetti dinners at the local Italian joint if you get in before 5 (Murder She Wrote.) It also didn’t hurt to have a moustache (Again Magnum P.I. and in some episodes of Murder She Wrote, Angela Lansbury didn’t hit the electrolysis that day.) These things got the crimes solved in just under an hour and sometimes two if there was a huge guest star for Sweeps Week. The bad guys were caught, people got their money back and there was always a blond girl to fall in love with you for forty minutes (Though in Colombo’s case, she was always at home.) TV was teaching us that crime was being solved and we had nothing to worry about.

But Hollywood knew our belief in pithy sayings and colorful characters wouldn’t last, so they decided that we needed to see real people solving crimes. So they decided the one way to keep America’s belief in their legal and judicial system is to make things as real as possible. And they had to go deep and real. And if that meant Dennis Franz’s ass, than America would just have to accept it. So they bombarded us with the early nineties realism of gritty, salt talking lifers on the police force. We had the realism of Baltimore in Homicide, the realism of NYPD Blue’s New York. They even moved it to the big screen. There was the dark conflicted police officers of Rush, Narc and even the dark underbelly of local forces of New England in Super Troopers (syrup is a one way ticket to the gutter…just ask Susan ‘Mrs.” Butterworth, currently serving 8 years in Leavenworth for prostitution and “sweetening” men cross the country)

Yet it was the next move in crime fighting in Hollywood that is the major plan behind the computer’s takeover of the actors in Hollywood. With all of us thoroughly believing that Hollywood was giving us an honest to goodness representation of the men, women and chimps (both literal and interpretational) keeping us safe, they had us hooked. So what trend would be next? Dead people. People coming back from the great beyond and aiding people in all sorts of conundrums and fingering their killers to their spiritual guides (kind of like Snufflupagus with vendettas…imaginary friends with issues)

At first they’d sneak in to shows now and then. In very special episodes (Again, Sweeps Week-Allowing Shows to Jump The Shark since 75). They’d appear at the operating table or at dinner and solve the big crime for Magnum or Columbo or one of the Simons and then the show would resume its regularly scheduled attempt at reality. But nobody batted an eyelash. Nobody hemmed and hawed and said, “Hey, this doesn’t follow the rules and parameters set for this show.” Hollywood had it’s medium. And so the dead people kept coming.

They started small. First, they inserted a dead partners soul into a member of the K9 unit to see if we’d really go for the idea. And we did (Thanks Tequila and Bonetti! No really, thanks.) So soon they added characters that appeared several times during the course of the shows run (kind of like The Great Gazoo for Fred Flintstone, but in hospital scrubs and with a huge gash across their forehead and usually played by an aging cast member from 90210.) And when we still did not flinch, they based shows around it. Medium. That upcoming Jeff Goldblum series. Barney Miller. (Okay, so Abe Vigoda wasn’t really dead but the man still looks like a corpse on a few strings.) And the shows weren’t enough. They put the Helpful Dead in movies, in ads, and even in that bastion of nineties reality: the tabloid talk show. (Don’t think so? Sylvia Browne, the Montel! Psychic, is a Hollywood shill. You can’t tell me she’s not the little woman from Poltergeist after a few packs of Luckys and some expensive trips to a Nail Salon on Park and 125th.) Dead people are huge right now. They’re solving crimes. They’re reuniting marriages. They’re keeping Jennifer Love Hewitt’s bank account in the black. They’re everywhere. How did we ever LIVE without them?

Which is just how Hollywood wants it. If we believe that the dead are roaming our entertainment landscape and making things better for our characters, then surely a computer generated sidekick could do the same. By making us believe in the powers of the dead and non-living, there are prepping us for the inevitability of us getting our safety, comfort and entertainment from something that doesn’t exist at all (except on somebody’s hard drive, sandwiched in between Minesweeper and half naked pics of Antonella Barba.)

We need to fight now. We need as a people to cry “Bullshit” to all these dead people making the living lives better. Because it’s all just one step away. We are this close to putting actors out of work for non-existent beings. Look at what MP3 downloading has done to the music industry. Car customization shops are only putting 3 TV’s in people’s Hummers now. The monetary ramifications are staggering. I see through your ruse, Hollywood. Your attempt to use these dead people as the KY jelly to lube me up before the great “RAM” is not getting by this watchful eye. Kill the dead people now before all hell breaks lose. Actors out of work, star’s children forced to have their pictures in albums and not on magazine covers, Jim Carrey delivering your pizza.

Actually, I saw The Number 23, so that last one won’t be entirely your fault.

Daddys, Let Your Babies Grow Up To Kick For The Cowboys March 7, 2007

Posted by doctorolove in Sports.
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It barely made the football news wire. It was sandwiched just below “Oakland Raiders equipment manager found sniffing jocks after the teams 2nd victory” and slightly above “Peyton Manning goes to the mini mart and buys Ho-Ho’s.” In big block letters, you will see it and even though we didn’t notice it, it may have single handedly changed the course of parenting for the next twenty years. It read, “The Cowboys have reached an agreement on a five-year, $8.5 million contract with punter Mat McBriar.” Yup, that’s right and for those of you who spent most of high school math hanging out at the food court and eating 3.95 Bourbon Chicken with three sides (I recommend the yellow rice but stay away from the green beans), Mat McBriar is making 1.7 million dollars a year. To punt.

To put things in monetary perspective, that is more than their starting quarterback, their starting tight end, their starting running back and the guy who refills the Gatorade when T.O. takes a whiz in it combined. You can answer 15 questions from Meredith Viera and still make less that Mat McBriar. You could not pay taxes for the next twenty years and Mat would still be able to bail you out of jail, pay your taxes and take you and several thousand of the friends you made in the joint to Hooters for .50 cent wing night (Hey, the man isn’t made of money!)

Now, this may just seem like another case where Jerry Jones has completely gone off his rocker or McBriar caught him watching Grey’s Anatomy in the owner’s box while wearing a “I Heart McDreamy” T-shirt. Whatever the reason (and I think it’s a combination of the two…only the shirt says “I Brake For Whiny Doctors”) I did say it changed the course of parenting. Because it’s giving dads, who live vicariously through their children, an outlet. And it’s an outlet where previous important aspects, such as athletic ability and body shape and size, have absolutely no need.

This nation is riddled with fathers who truly believe that their children can fulfill their own dreams of athletic stardom. They are more dangerous than stage mom’s, who more often than not have a stage credit or two (usually playing Amanda in the local theatre’s production of Glass Menagerie directed by some old, fat bald local “artist” who has lived for twenty years off the fact he was a swing in A Chorus Line in 1984.) They tasted the limelight and it is that which fuels them. Sideline dads, however, never played in any major league. The closest most of them got may have been playing on the same field with some guy who got to walk on with a Canadian league expansion team. To them, the son will be the dream whereas the mother thinks she can use the child’s dream to fulfill her own.

Before the signing last week, fathers knew early on whether they could force their child forward. Tossing the ball in the backyard or running around the neighborhood at a young age is usually a good test. If your child has several broken ocular bones or huffs and wheezes like Tony Soprano, your dream gets buried faster than Mandy Moore skin pics. Now, with punting a viable option, athletic ideals have lowered the bar. Simply teach him how to kick and who knows what will happen?

The punter is the most inconsequential job on a football team. Your job is to simply kick the ball high and far. While that may seem like an important and difficult task, you are, as a punter, ostensibly cleaning up after the real stars of them have stunk up the joint. A kicker is brought in when there’s some semblance of performance, be it a decent drive or a miracle interception. A punter is called when nothing happens. That must weigh on your psyche, huh?

And punters? They play for years. The oft-traveled Sean Landeta, I think, has played for every team ever and picks up his Social Security check after every game is over. While he may never have gotten a fat McBriar contract, he still gets to hang in the locker room, pal around with mega star athletes and occasionally catch the crumbs of wealth, women and endorsement deals that dribble free from the fed mouths of the giants they play with. (Non-Shakespearean description: They screw the fallout.)

And now with all that, you have money. Before punters were behind the scenes, often making pittance sums. Now with McBriar’s contract, you get the cake, can eat it too and can buy a few thousand more cakes and eat those as well. And you can eat as many of those cakes as you want, because the punter doesn’t have to be fit. In fact, science even proves that the gut can add an extra two or three seconds of hangtime (Also known as the Ron Jeremy Flab is Fab theory)

And they need punters too. In fact, there are so few good punters in our fair country, they’ve been invading Europe and Australian to find the right guy to clean up after their million dollar offenses. That should irk you, Sideline Dads. Why should real athletes get the job you are grooming your apathetic child for? I mean, soccer players have to run and jump and kick with ACCURACY. Surely, your plan will be thwarted if these “people with skill” continue their ascent on the position you can so easily grab. I mean, your kid can grab. Remember we’re not stage moms, right?

So take heart fathers of sons who have slightly less athletic prowess than John Goodman on a good day. Simply master the art of the punt (which is mostly mathematic in nature) and you can tell your whole group of friends, co-workers and those jerks you went to high school with that you have a son in the NFL. Unless he shanks one in the big game.

At that point, you have a child who sells cars. And that’s probably going to be true soon anyway. The Used Car salesman track is littered with the failed dreams of ex-athletes. In fact, Scott Norwood just sold me a really good Vespa. And, he WAS a kicker.