30 December 2005

Another Star Trek rant

The survival of the Star Trek franchise will need to come from a dedicated fan. Either that, or someone who knows how to write a great story. First, one must look at how Star Trek had its second coming after the mostly disappointing Star Trek: The Motion Picture (which still holds a fine place in my heart, and even more now that Robert Wise had a chance to "finish" it on DVD).

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan had two things going for it. First was producer Harve Bennett, who’s background was TV and who understood what made a great show: writing. While The Six Million Dollar Man is what it is, I believe The Bionic Woman was better show. Behind the silly science fiction and scene chewing 70's TV actors, the show transcended its parent show. A credit goes to Lindsey Wagner, who brought a thee dimension life of Jamie Summers. In doing so, Harve Bennett created a much deeper show and that despite it being sci fi/fantasy, it was grounded in reality. Plus, knowing budgets and time constrains, he was more than a logical producer to help save a profitable franchise in need of a creative direction.

While TMP was pretty to look at, and it took a real chance by telling a hardcore science fiction story (when, after Star Wars, these films became space operas), but its cold and emotionless direction hampered it. Director Robert Wise, in his commentary on the special directors cut of his film blamed most of its failure on a tight shooting schedule -the film had a release date long before production actually began - untried visual effects and a lack of a preview screening (which might’ve help tighten up some the slow parts) admits the story may have been too ambitious. But again, had they been given the time, TMP might’ve had a better box office total and survived the mixed reviews.

Nicholas Meyer -who’s love of literary classics such as the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne - led him to Hollywood where he would co-write the screenplay based on his own Sherlock Holmes novel, The Seven Percent Solution. Later, as he became a director, his style of story oriented direction grab the interest of Bennett.

While Meyer’s knowledge of Trek was limited, he saw many similarities of Trek in classic literature -most notably Hartio Hornblower. While Roddenberry’s western motif of a "wagon train" in stars may have been his original pitch to the networks, it did take on a more Shakespearean likeness as it progressed. Meyer exploited this and along with Harve Bennett’s keen sense production and a heavily re-written Jack Sowards script, Trek II saved the franchise. It was here, that modern Star Trek started to borrow from literary classics, quoting a Tale of Two Cities and many others.

Bennett would continue to produce -along with writing The Search for Spock -through the disastrous Final Frontier. And Nicholas Meyer would help write the screenplay for Voyage Home -basically the stuff, he says, from the line "Remember where we parked" to their return to the 23rd Century. While Bennett would not be producing The Undiscovered Country, Meyer returned to direct (and help pen the script) the last Star Trek film to feature all of TOS members.

From Generations on, the producing duties fell to Rick Berman. As a person who blames Berman (and Brannon Braga) for Trek’s schism, over time I’ve begun to think that Paramount has also helped. Still, Berman was part of that corporate utopia that took over American in the 1990's; a time when demographics began to drive movies and TV shows. Demographics on the whole seem great. It is a great tool to predict trends, to gauge what people wanted; but we gave control of our movies and TV shows content to people who painted things in with a broad paint brush, in hope of crossing over every demographic.

So began Berman’s and Paramount’s attempt to find a larger Trek audience. Well, to be honest, it started when Star Trek Voyager launched in January 1995. Now back on a network -minor one at that - this series had different goals than the two previous syndicated spin-offs Star Trek: The Next Generation and the still running Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Ratings, while even important even in syndication, were paramount on network TV. While TNG and DS9 could do stories that tackled the more "human elements, the moral and ethical dilemmas," as the writer late Michael Piller said to his writers when they were scripting an episode, Voyager began to focus on the action stories, or "high concept" episodes Braga would use when defending Voyager’s lack of appeal to many fans; he seemed in many interviews to be really confused as to why fans were hating VOY so much.

Ultimately, Piller who left VOY after its second season, conceded that while he’s proud of the show, he could see some of its faults. Piller told Cinefantastique's Anna L. Kaplan (via TrekWeb) that "...The whole idea of exploring space is a metaphor for exploring ourselves. When Voyager did that, I think it did very well. I think the Seven of Nine stories gave us some insight into humanity and the meaning of humanity that the series sorely wanted. It had its moments. But when it did the exploding spaceships and space-monsters and so forth, the problem is that's what everybody does in science fiction. I think that reduces Star Trek to being no better and worse than other science fiction shows."

Years later, after VOY had ended and Star Trek: Enterprise was failing to find an audience, Berman would go on the defense, saying that a lot of what internet fans write about him and Braga is pure fiction. He also seemed to suggest that a lot of the things he had been blamed for over the past years, were actually beyond his control. "When you are perceived as the person in charge, which is not always necessarily the case, you're the person who takes the blame when there are problems."

And after years of silence from writers -who, I realize, need to keep their jobs -have finally spoken up. Both former writers Bryan Fuller and Ronald D. Moore have also gone public, blaming some, but not all of Trek’s later problems on Berman. Moore also blames changing times, saying Enterprise "never quite grabbed people viscerally and hung on, like the other shows did." He believes that audiences no longer felt compelled to "rush out and see in any way, shape or form." new Star Trek material, which contributed to the failure of Star Trek: Nemesis at the box office. (Meanwhile, at the same time, UPN's changing demographics made the show more difficult to sell, for the network was targeting female viewers). Fuller himself said VOY had problems with its magic, candy like reset button; that the shows characters never evolved beyond their initial origins (with the exception of Seven of Nine and the Doctor).

"It’s like there's a certain number of science-fiction fans, and that's it," said Manny Coto, who said that the last season of Enterprise’s writing staff focused on stories that would appeal to longtime fans, believing that those who did not know the Star Trek universe had already abandoned the series. "It's a genre that appeals to a certain type of individual, and there's not a lot of them." Coto added, echoing the sentiments of Jonathan Frakes, who believes that Enterprise was hurt as much by reruns from other Star Trek shows as anything in its premise. Frakes hinted at franchise fatigue, as series creators Rick Berman and Brannon Braga have done repeatedly when asked for the reason Enterprise had not caught on with wider audiences. However, one star of Enterprise disagreed. Jolene Blalock was bold enough to speak up during a shows production to say she identifies herself as a lifelong fan, and said that "..the stories lacked intriguing content. They were boring." She felt that the early scripts violated facts already established in other franchise shows and complained that the show substituted revealing costumes for character development. "The audience isn't stupid," she protested.

Meanwhile, while all the arguments go on about why Trek failed -after 18 years, was it really franchise fatigue - was it all really Berman and Braga? Was it Paramount and their desire to broaden Trek’s fan base that it dumbed down the show so much that it only appealed to a "certain type of individual"? - what can Trek do to save itself?

I think if Paramount is serious about it, they have to look at the success of Battlestar Galactica. Ronald D. Moore’s re-booting of the 70's series has taken the Sci Fi Channel by storm. With the show in the middle of its second season, and with a third yet to come, Moore has taken a route with the show that no one might’ve thought. But, Law & Order has been doing it for years. BG’s ripped from the headlines episodes has many parallels to our current conflict in Iraq. And in doing so, it found a larger audience that liked TOS plus new ones who liked the hardcore science fiction wrapped in a military construct.

With his wit and creativity, and probably a little creative freedom from Sci Fi, Moore's taken a somewhat maligned 70s science fiction series and made it the show everyone will now have to copy and compare. Paramount and its investors may work off a book of black and white scenarios; endless sheets of demographic nonsense; but it relies too heavily on them when programming their biggest franchise.

Paramount needs to serve the Star Trek fans now and the ones yet to come, and not subdue them with endless retreads. They need to stop dumbing down the franchise, because, ironically, I believe that if you write an intelligent script the fans will come, plus drag new ones who will be curious. It needs a producer along the lines of Harve Bennet who has the understanding of a writer and a director. It needs a fan and not a studio yes man/bean counter. Paramount also has to fully understand what made the whole Star Trek franchise succeed in the first place: engaging, believeable characters and the stories that could entertain, but also have a deep look into the human condition. Stories that, while set in a fantasy world, can have great meaning to today’s world.

Ron D. Moore is doing that with Battlestar. Why can’t this happen with Star Trek?

24 December 2005

Bad Boy actor Brad Renfro arrested (again)

The horror stories of kids who hit it big in Hollywood when they are young and then find out how disingenuous it can be when they grow up are a dime a dozen. Hollywood will eat you up, that's for sure. A cliché, I know, but over the decades, show business has proven that while little kids sell tickets at the box office and bring in ratings on TV, it will abandon you like discarded toy when something better comes along.
The new DVD release of the TV series SeaQuest DSV brings to mind the suicide death of actor Jonathan Brandis, or the heroin overdose of Rosanne and Angel actor Glenn Quinn and the many troubled life of Terminator 2 star Edward Furlong. There are many others, to be sure. Most go unnoticed, although there is a former child actor who has an organization to help these troubled young ones.
One may be need to help Brad Renfro. The actor, who broke into movies at the age of 12, was charged with a felony count of attempting to possess heroin after being arrested in a Skid Row police sting in Los Angeles on December 22.
This, sadly, is not the 23 year-olds only tangle with the law. Acording to IMDb, he was arrested in his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, when police pulled him over and allegedly found cocaine and marijuana in his pants and socks in June of 1998. Was arrested in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on a grand theft charge for allegedly trying to steal a 45 foot yacht. He and a companion failed to untie the boat from the dock, causing damage to both the boat and the dock in August of 2000. He was sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay more than $4,000 for repairs on a yacht. While on probation in Florida, he was arrested in May 2001 for underage drinking as car was pulled over. In January of '02 in Knoxville, Tennessee Renfro was arrested and charged with public intoxication and driving without a license. He was stopped after a traffic violation near his house. He was ordered back to jail for remainder of probation by Florida judge due to his drunk driving arrest in January. His most recent tangle came back in November when he was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor count of DUI and two counts of driving with a suspended license.
Brad Renfro made a big splash in 1994's The Client, an adaptation of the John Grisham bestseller which also starred Susan Saradnon and Tommy Lee Jones. While the movie was okay, the then 12 year-old stole almost every scene. He also put in another bold performance in Apt Pupil, which was directed by Bryan Singer (and based on the Stephen King novella) which caused some controversary -not only for his cold performance - but behind the scenes when family members of kids who appeared in the film, accused the producers of filming their kids in the nude in a shower scene, when they were told no images would be taken below the waist. He went on to star in the Disney film Tom and Huck with Jonathan Taylor Thomas and then a string of indie films like Tart, Ghost World and Bully.
Renfro, now 23, was freed on $10,000 bail Friday and is scheduled for arraignment on Dec. 30. If convicted, he could avoid prison because a 2000 law requires that first- and second-time nonviolent drug offenders be sent to treatment programs instead, said Jane Robison, a district attorney's spokeswoman. "He was contrite about being arrested and he readily acknowledged that he had a drug problem," police Lt. Paul Vernon said at a news conference.
While Hollywood cannot be blamed for all of his -or that, any actors - problems, it does shine a light into its dark corners. Renfro was a cute kid and became a semi-handsome teen with a ton of rough edges, and he seemed proud of that badboy image he was giving off. He was, in many ways, perfectly cast in Tom and Huck. Jonathan Taylor Thomas was perfect boy next door, one any parent would be proud to have their girls date. And Thomas cultivated that image of the squeeky clean kid, even though he tried to break out of that with his performaces as a gay hustler in Speedway Junkies. Thomas also played gay in the Showtime movie Common Ground. Then there was Renro's Huck Finn, a kid with no past and no future. His dirty, straight hair and sneer made him the image of the kid from other side of tracks. He played into that classic cliché and attracted even more the badboy image.
And Hollywood likes that image and will exploited for all its worth, until the actor does something like this (just look at the skid that has effected Tom Sizemore). Renfro's departure from mainstream film making may be in part his choice, but producers (and their backers) and directors don't like actors with troubles in their private life. Filmmaking is a costly buisness, and set backs by actors private lives infringing on time clock, causes them not be used again.
The end fate of Renfro is yet to be determined. Like Sizemore, he needs to want to give up his drug problems. Entering a drug treatment center is a start, but as one who seems not want to be told what to do, it seems all moot.
I guess, with Brad Renfro, it all comes down to choices. If he chooses to get help, he can overcome the monkey on his back. If he chooses to shrug it off like an old coat, his fate seems to be headed in the direction of Glenn Quinn or even, sadly, Jonathan Brandis.

14 December 2005

Arrested not yet gone?

In a move that may save the critically acclaimed yet ratings challenged FOX TV show Arrested Develpoment, two networks are interested in if they "officially" cancel the show.
Last month, FOX pulled the show after a dismal performance on its new Monday timeslot after being prempted for the baseball playoffs and world series. Then they cut the shows episode order from 22 to 13 -which most insiders said basically doomed the show.
Now both the cable network Showtime and ABC have made it known they might want the Emmy winning show if FOX pulls the plug, Variety has noted.
Still, the road to redemption is a long way off. As noted, FOX has yet to say if the show will return for a fourth season and until that happens, 20tn Century Fox and Imagine Entertainment cannot take the show anywhere.
Cost could be a factor here, also. It has a large cast of nine regulars, along with narrator Ron Howard. It has expensive sets and shoots as a single camera. So it ain't cheap.
The report notes that Showtime could be the more likley of the two, as they have been pushing and supporting their original series which has earned Emmy nominations for their drama Huff and Golden Globe nods this week for Weeds. And because Showtimes revenue is driven by subcriber fees, ratings would not be that much of a concern.

13 December 2005

Paramount buys DreamWorks -Trek franchise's life gets murkier

After 11 years of trying to be a "big" independent movie studio, Paramount Pictures has agreed to purchase DreamWorks SKG. While the sale was no surprise, its who bought them that sent a ripple through Hollywood last week. Universal Pictures had been courting DreamWorks for over six months, reported the LA Times and it was assumed because Universal had long been DreamWorks distribution arm and working relationship with Steven Speilberg they would put in the winning bid.

But all that came to end when Paramount bought the studio for $1.5 billion. Paramount chairman Brad Grey would gain control of DreamWorks' live-action movie production facilities and its previously produced films, including Academy Award winners Gladiator and American Beauty. Paramount would also gain distribution rights to DreamWorks Animation films, but not to the film profits themselves, since Jeffrey Katzenberg-headed DreamWorks Animation became independent last year and would not be included in the purchase.

Back in 1994, Spielberg, Katzenberg and music mogul David Geffen formed DreamWorks SKG in hopes of making a mark in the music, television, films and internet with a new digital facility to be built near Los Angeles. But the music label was eventually dropped, as it was losing money and the studio all but shuttered its TV distribution and abandoned the video game business and all the plans they had for the internet as investors went elsewhere.

Meanwhile, this will now put all and any further attempts to revive the Star Trek franchise on indefinite hold. While Rick Berman has said that an 11th feature is in development, expect Paramount not to go forward with any film -or new TV series- for some time. This purchase has affected all of Paramount’s products, which includes the startrek.com web site, which is expected to go dark by years end and the magazine, Star Trek Communicator.

However, Larry Nemecek, the managing editor of The Star Trek Communicator, said he was confident that the official Star Trek fan club would continue in the wake of Decipher's announcement that the company would cease publication of the magazine.

"The recent note by Decipher on its website is a follow-up to essentially what happened when it closed out its Publishing division July 1," Nemecek wrote to The Trek Nation. "I hope fans can separate the Official Fan Club and Communicator magazine as a longtime entity from Decipher the company, since Decipher has only been the licensee since 2001." Nemecek explained that the company founded by Dan Madsen, who ran the official fan club and magazine from 1980 through 2001, sold the Star Trek properties to Decipher.

Nemecek explained that the Viacom-CBS split that has affected Paramount Digital Entertainment and has left the future of StarTrek.com in limbo is affecting the relaunch of the fan club and magazine. The editor had said at the Las Vegas Creation convention in August that he expected a new licensee within a few months, but it is taking longer because of the corporate restructuring. "My own sticking with the project - the magazine - has been based on a scenario that still seems to be working out, hopefully soon to be announced," he said.

It is still very much true, as you quoted me from August, that 'Paramount will not let the Fan Club and Communicator die,'" Nemecek added. "I am certain that there is plenty of Star Trek to cover, both old and new, fan and pro, to make this worthwhile and exciting, or I would not have staked my immediate future to it." He said that he was confident that StarTrek.com would find a new home as well.
But in the end, Star Trek is not a top priority for Paramount at this time, and with the box office and critical failure of the last big screen film, Nemesis, and the troubled four season long and now canceled Star Trek: Enterprise, expect Brad Grey not to go forward with anything new with the franchise for a few more years.

While Trek will be back -and God knows, it will - the fans will just have to sit back and wait. As I posted some days ago, the franchise can be saved if it does not kow-tow to the lowest common denominator. Fans want a great action adventure show, but they also want shows and movies that follow in Roddenberry’s original intent.

I just want to feel.

There is a part of me that knows how silly this really is. But, when I hear Feel by Robbie Williams, I swear that song is my life:

Here the lyrics:

Come on hold my hand,I wanna contact the living.
Not sure I understand,This role I’ve been given.
I sit and talk to God
And he just laughs at my plans,
My head speaks a language, I don’t understand.


I just wanna feel real love,
Feel the home that I live in.
’cause I got too much life,
Running through my veins, going to waste.

I don’t wanna die,
But I ain’t keen on living either.
Before I fall in love,
I’m preparing to leave her.
I scare myself to death,
That’s why I keep on running.
Before I’ve arrived,
I can see myself coming.


I just wanna feel real love,
Feel the home that I live in.
’cause I got too much life,
Running through my veins,
going to waste.
And I need to feel, real love
And a life ever after.
I cannot get enough.


I just wanna feel real love,
Feel the home that I live in,
I got too much love,
Running through my veins, going to waste.
I just wanna feel real love,
In a life ever after
There’s a hole in my soul,
You can see it in my face, it’s a real big place.

If you're depressed (which I guess I can be), this song strikes a chord -no pun intended. Still, these images this song projects are ones I've had for a long time. I can't say it speaks to me, because THAT would be arrogant. However, I think it parallels my life.
It's just weird.

12 December 2005

David Cross (Arrested Development) open letter to Larry, the Cable Guy

An open letter to Larry The Cable Guy:
Hello Larry,It's me, David Cross. Recently I was shooting something for my friends at "Wonder Showzen" (the funniest, most subversive comedy on American T.V. at the moment) and when we were taking a break one of the guys on the show asked me if I had seen some article in something somewhere wherein you were interviewed to promote your new book "Please-Git-R-Done" (published by Crown Books $23.95 U.S.) and they asked about your devoting a chapter to slamming me and the "P.C. Left". Since I stopped following your career shortly after you stopped going on stage wearing a tool belt with cable wrapped around your neck (around your appearance at "Laffs 'n' Food" in Enid, Oklahoma Aug 23-26 1999?) I said I wasn't aware of the article. They went on to tell me that you said basically (and I am not quoting but paraphrasing their recall) that I could kiss your ass, that I've never been to one of your shows (true) and that I didn't know your audience (untrue).SO, I went and got your book, "Gitting-R-Donned", and excitedly skimmed past the joke about that one time you farted and something farty happened, on past the thing about the fat girl who farted and finally found it, . Well, needless to say I farted. I farted up a fartstorm right there in the Flyin' J Travel Center. I fartingly bought the book and took it home with an excitement I haven't experienced since I got Bertha Chudfarter's Grandma drunk and she took her teeth out and blew me as I was finger banging her while wearing a Jesus sock puppet in the back of the boiler room at The Church of the Redeemer off I-20 (I don't care who you are, that's funny.)Anyhoo, I got home and read the good parts. It seems that you were pissed off at Rolling Stone magazine, and I can understand why. You made some good points in your argument as well. I agree that there is an eliteism and bias in the press and too often a writer will include asides to show the readers how smart he or she is and how "above it" they are. But come on! Surely you can't be surprised, or worse, hurt or offended by this. You even say in the book that you knew what you were getting into (Rolling Stone being all "lefty" and whatnot). Certainly I'm not surprised that they took a ten minute phone conversation with me and chose to print only the most inflammatory paragraph within it. That's what they do.But I want to address some of the things you write about me in "Git-to-Gittin'-r-Done". In response to the Rolling Stone article, but first let me say this; you are very mistaken if you think that I don't know your audience. Hell, I could've been heckled by the parents of some of the very people that come see you now. I grew up in Roswell, Georgia (near the Funny Bone and not far from The Punch Line). The very first time I went on stage was at The Punch Line in Sandy Springs in 1982 when I was 17. I cut my teeth in the south and my first road gigs ever were in Augusta, Charleston, Baton Rouge, and Louisville. I remember them very well, specifically because of the audience. I remember thinking (occasionally, not all the time) "what a bunch of dumb redneck, easily entertained, ignorant motherfuckers. I can't believe the stupid shit they think is funny." So, yes, I do know your audience, and they suck. And they're simple. And please don't mistake this as coming from a place of bitterness because I didn't "make it" there or, I'm not as successful as you because that's not it at all. Since I was a kid I've always been a little over sensitive to the glorification and rewarding of dumb. The "salt of the earth, regular, every day folk" (or lowest common denominator) who see the world, and the people like me in it, as on some sort of secular mission to take away their flag lapels and plaster-of-paris jesus television adornments strike me as childishly paranoid. But perhaps the funniest (oddest) thing in your book is you taking me to task for being P.C. Have you heard my act?! I'll match your un-P.C.ness any day of the week my friend. I truly believe, and have said onstage amongst other things that, orthodox Jews are bar none, the most annoying people, as a group, that walk this earth. I absolutely refuse to say the term "African-American". It's a ridiculous and ill-applied label that was accepted with a thoughtless rush just to make white people feel at ease and slightly noble. I also believe that in the right setting that, as unfortunate as it may be, retarded people can be a near constant source of entertainment (fact!). Larry, whether northern, southern, straight, gay, male, female, liberal, conservative, Christian or Jew, I've walked them all. It didn't matter if it was a room full of "enlightened" hippie lesbian wicans at Catch A Rising Star in Cambridge, MA or literally hundreds of students at the University of St. Louis (a Jesuit school) or a roomful of the cutest, angriest frat boys in Baton Rouge all threatening to beat me up, I un-P.C.'d the shit out of them. That's another thing that bothers me too. I honestly believe that if we had worked a week together at whatever dumb-ass club in American Strip Mall #298347 in God's Country U.S.A and hung out that week and got good and drunk after the shows, that you and I would've been making each other laugh (I imagine we would have politely disagreed on a few things) but not only would we be laughing but we'd often be laughing at the expense of some of the audience members at that nights show and you know it. I'll address your easy, bullshit sanctimonious "don't mess with my audience" crap further on. But for now, let's "Gittle-R-Ding-Dong-Done!"Okay, here's what I said in the RS interview: "He's good at what he does. It's a lot of anti-gay, racist humor -- which people like in America - all couched in 'I'm telling it like it is.' He's in the right place at the right time for that gee-shucks, proud-to-be-a-redneck, I'm-just-a-straight-shooter-multimillionaire-in-cutoff-flannel, selling-ring tones-act. That's where we are as a nation now. We're in a state of vague American values and anti-intellectual pride." You took umbrage at my calling a lot of your act anti-gay and racist and said that "...according to Cross and the politically correct police, any white comedians who mention the word 'black' or say something humorous but faintly negative about any race are racists."Well, first of all, your act is racist. Maybe not all the time, but it certainly can be. Here, let me quote you back, word for word, some of your "faintly negative" humor and I'll let people judge for themselves.Re: Abu Ghraib Torture - "Let me ask some of these commie rag head carpet flying wicker basket on the head balancing scumbags something!"Re: Having a Muslim cleric give the opening prayer at the Republican Convention - "What the hell is this the cartoon network? The Republicans had a muslim give the opening prayer at there (sic) convention! What the hell's going on around here! Is Muslim now the official religion of the United States!... First these peckerheads ( Ironically, "peckerhead" was a derogatory word slaves and their offspring used to describe white people) fly planes into towers and now theys (sic) prayin' before conventions! People say not all of em did that and I say who gives a rats fat ass! That's a fricken slap in the face to New York city by having some muslim sum-bitch give the invocation at the republican convention! This country pretty much bans the Christian religion (the religion of George Washington and John Wayne) virtually from anything public and then they got us watchin' this muslim BS!! Ya wanna pray to allah then drag yer flea infested ass over to where they pray to allah at!" End Quote. So... yeah. There you go. This quote goes on and on but my favorite part is when you say towards the end, "...now look, I love all people (except terrorist countries that want to kill us)..."There are numerous examples and I don't think I need to reprint any more. You get the idea. Oh, what the hell, here's one more - "They're dead, get over it! Poor little sandy asses! I'm sure all them dead folks'd they'd killed give 40 shekels or whatever kinda money these inbred sumbitches use, but I'd give 40 of 'em whatever it is to be humiliated instead of dead!" Okay Larry The Cable Guy, I will ignore the irony of a big ole southern redneck character actually using "inbred" as an insult, as well as the fact that a shekel is currency from Israel, the towel heads sworn enemy. But at least you're passionate about what you see as inhumane injustice (not on a global level of course, but on a national level) and the simple black and white of what's right and what's wrong. It's kinda like you're this guy who speaks for all these poor, unfortunate souls out there who wear shirts with blue collars on them, work hard all day to put food on the table for their family (unlike people who wear shirts with white collars or wear scrubs or t-shirts or dresses or costumes that consist of flannel shirts with the sleeves cut-off and old trucker hats) and pray to the American Flag of Jesus to protect them from the evils of muslims, queers, illegal immigrants, and the liberal jews who run Hollywood and the media. I guess one could say that you're "telling it like it is". And considering the vast amount of over-simplification you employ to describe with sweeping generalizations, all of America and the World that "don't make no sense to you", as well as your lack of sensitivity, and second grade grammar, one might be led to think that you are somewhat proud of not appearing (or being) too intellectual. Combine that with your sucker appeal to the knee-jerk white Christian patriot in us all who would much rather hear 87 fart jokes than hear a joke in which the President (the current one, not the last one) or the Pope, or Born-Again Christians, or Lee Greenwood get called on their shit for being the hypocrites that they are, and I think we've got a winner!About being Anti-Gay. I honestly take that back. I do not think that you are anti-gay, I didn't choose those words wisely. Your stuff isn't necessarily anti-gay but rather stupid and easy. "Madder than a queer with lock jaw on Valentines Day." That's not that funny, I don't care who you are. It's just sooo easy. I mean, over half the planet sucks dick so why gays? Why not truck stop whores, or Hollywood Starlets or housewives? Because when you say "queer" you get an easy laugh. End of story.As for being a multi-millionaire in disguise, that's just merely a matter of personal taste for me. I do not begrudge you your money at all, it is sincerely hard earned and you deserve whatever people want to give to you. What sticks in my craw about that stuff is the blatant and (again, personal taste) gross marketing and selling of this bullshit character to your beloved fans. Now look, if someone wants to pay top dollar to come to one of your shows and then drop a couple hundred more on "Git-R-Done" lighters and hats and t-shirts and windshield stickers and trailer hitches and beer koozies and fishing hats and shot glasses etc, then good for you. I just think it's a little crass and belies the "good ole boy" blue collar thing you represent. But that's no big deal.Now, as for the last statement that "We're in a state of vague American values and anti-intellectual pride." Well, I think that's true. When you can rally the troops (so to speak) with a lazy, "latte drinking, tofu eating" generalization of Liberals and "Back ass rag fags" to describe Arabs, then, yeah, I think that falls in the "ignorant" category. I think that with even the slightest attention to the double standard and hypocrisy of both the Left and the Right in this country (if not all of the Christian Extremists as a whole) coupled with the bullshit they lazily swallow and parrot back while happily ignoring the gross inhumane treatment of those that aren't them so that we may have cheap sneakers and oil and slightly less taxes (although I'm sure the bracket you're in now gives you a ton of tax money back), then you could maybe see my point. Now here's the best part - in your book you preface the above quote by saying, "...but I guess I'm not as intellectual as David Cross. In that Rolling Stone article, he sure showed us what a deep thinker he is by sayin' "America is in a stage of vague intellectual pride." Jesus Christ can you even fucking read?! Whoever read that article to you butchered the actual quote. The quote that was right fucking in front of their face! I would fire your official reader and have them replaced with a Hooters Girl who doesn't fart. That way you have something nice to look at while you are getting your misinformation. As for "anti-intellectual pride", that is Larry The Cable Guy in spades. Let me quote you again (from an on-line interview, "I consider my jokes to be very jeuvinille (sic). Stuff a 14 year old would laugh at because that's the ...sence (sic) of humor I have.". Hmmm, okay. That was easy. Well, I suppose I've already covered part of that in the above. But you also specifically dumb down your speech while making hundreds of purposefully grammatical errors. How do I know this? It's on page 17 of your book wherein you describe how you would "Larry" up your commentaries for radio. What does it mean to "Larry" something up? Take a wild guess. The reason you feel the need to "Larry" something up? Because you are not that dumb. I mean you, Dan Whitney, the guy who's name the bank account is under. You were born and raised in Nebraska (hardly The South), went to private school and moved to Florida when you were 16. This is when you developed your accent?! Not exactly the developmental years are they? At age 16 that's the kind of thing you have to make a concerted effort to adopt. Did you hire a voice coach? Or were you like one of those people who go to England for a week and come back sounding like an extra from "Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels"? As you said yourself in an interview once, "I can pop in and out of it pretty much whenever I want". In your book on page 89 you say in reference to the "gee-shucks" millionaire comment, "...see, to his (David's) mind, bein' well paid means I'm no longer real and I can't be a country boy anymore. It's just an act." Hey, it's always been an act! That's my fucking point! You admit it yourself so cut the indignation shit. And I am in no way deriding your work ethic. You clearly have more fart jokes than most and for that I applaud you. You go on to talk about how hard you work and life on the road and living on Waffle House and blah, blah, blah. Yeah, I get it, we’ve all been there and played shitty, degrading gigs and sacrificed etc, etc. Then you say, "...this (the personal attack) was different because David basically hammered my fans in that RS article by implying that they were ignorant. He crossed the line when he railed against them, so I had to tell ya what I felt about that. He can hammer me all he wants, but when he screwed with my fans, it was time for me to say something." Aww, that's so sweet and egregious. I can't stand that fan ass kissing bullshit. You and Dane Cook ought to get together and have a "my-fan's-are-the-greatest-people-on-earth-and-that's-why-I-do-this" off. You could both sell a shit load of merch too. But having said that, I would truly love to get some of your fans and my fans in a room together to debate some of the finer points on comedy, music, culture, the issues facing our country today and just about anything else we might find worthy of discussion. My fans are pretty smart as well. They are also, I imagine, as "hard-working" as your fans. Not all of them of course, but most. And I'm sure that they may come up with some genuinely interesting, insightful points (and would do so without spouting a bunch of meaningless Christian platitudes). And if you really, truly want to respect your fans, lower your ticket price as well as the price of your ubiquitous merchandise. I'm sure all those hard-working Americans could use the extra money now that the budgets are being cut drastically from Transportation, Education, Health and Human Services, HUD, Dept of the Interior, EPA, Farm Service Agency, FEMA, Agricultural, FDA, VA, FDA, FHA, National Center for Environmental Health, and numerous other departments and agencies that they might directly rely on for help. All so that we can pay off this massive tax cut during "war" time that we're all getting (them not so much though).
Oh well, that's just one of those "political" things that I think about occasionally.
Anyway, I just wanted to address the stuff you wrote about me and clear some things up. Mostly the air around here... I just farted!!!!!Think-Of-Something-To-Do-And-See-That-Task-
Fart,David Cross

07 December 2005

Woes of the Star Trek franchise

There are those who will argue that Star Trek: Nemesis failure at the box office was not the film itself, but when it opened. Released on December 13, 2002, the tenth feature film had just 5 days to itself before The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers opened on December 18 (but it was really four, as there was midnight shows on the seventeenth). It opened with a nearly $20 million take; healthy, but the lowest gross since Star Trek V.

By the next week, the film lost 60% of its audience and was called a bomb. The film also tracked very low with critics and fans, continuing the schism that began nearly a decade ago with the Trek fans.
It has been suggested that the film -despite some flaws - could've succeed if Paramount released the film in February, thusly ensuing a minor hit, and it might've kept the film franchise going with little or no question.

Since then, Paramount has been rather -understandably -quiet about producing an 11th film in the franchise. And couple it with the cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise after 4 struggling years, the recently announced folding of Star Trek Communicator, the official magazine of shows, and a possibability that StarTrek.com may go dark soon, the studio seems to consider the franchise is in dire straights.

Director Bryan Singer has now said that he would be interested in directing a new feature film. But until a regime at Paramount sees the 40 year-old franchise as viable again, the directors interest seems moot, to say the least. Besides Singer, who is a long-time fan who had a cameo in Nemesis, is still finishing up Superman Returns in Australia before he either makes The Mayor of Castro Street or his long-planned Logan’s Run remake his next project. So, that could be a year or more before cameras could roll.

The second hurdle is where should the franchise go. Long time show runner Rick Berman, who seems to be still holding the franchise reins despite very obvious and damning evidence he has no idea what to do with it, has said in almost every issue of the the now folding magazine, that an eleventh feature is in "very early" stages of development; something that's been going on for nearly 3 years. He has also mentioned that the current plan would have a movie set before the TOS, much like the Star Trek: Enterprise. This feature would not, however, be a continuation of that failed TV series. Instead, it would feature a whole new cast -a sort of reboot of Star Trek.

But for many fans, including me, this seems to be a dead end. If Enterprise proved anything, the fans do not care about the forming of the Federation -or at least, Berman and Brannon Braga’s boring take on its beginning. It seems that they either bring back TNG cast or -unlikely considering its storyline - a feature film from DS9. Or hey, maybe even the cast of Voyager.

While the cast of TNG were disappointed with the failure of Nemesis, with the exception of Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner, have all said they would return. But, they all agree that while Nemesis was bold in its attempt to recapture the fans who enjoyed Star Trek II, some the actors have gone on record to lay the movies failure on director Stuart Baird, who was new to franchise and who admitted he had never seen a Trek film or the TV series. Paramount’s obvious hope at the time was to bring in "new blood", but Baird’s ham-fisted direction, along with a script that was in need of several rewrites, doomed the film to become the most hated since Star Trek V.

Now, it seems, Patrick Stewart has gone back on saying he would never play Picard again. The actor recently said that he would reconsider a return (and this came out about the same time Singer said he would like to direct) but even he would be busy for more than a year, as he heads off to England for a 14-month commitment to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre after finishing X Men III.

And now that CBS as axed Spiner’s Threshold, the actor who played Data will be needing a job.

But do we need another TNG film, or would it be better to launch another Star Trek series set on Enterprise J or H? To me, going back -ala Enterprise -is not a viable option. Bringing back the TNG cast -and mixing, maybe, some cast members from DS9 and Voyager - could be a better way. But, it would need a good script and a director who has some familiarity with the franchise. And maybe better yet, a Trek series set 150 to 200 years after TNG. Maybe at a time when the Federation is rebuilding after a destructive war with the Borg or some other species.

Again, everything hinges on a script and a competent director. Bryan Singer has a proven track record and since he is an unabashed fan of Trek, he could be the one to return the series to the silver screen. Plus, Singer has directed Stewart in the first two X Men films, so they have a working relationship. But one needs to understand that Trek cannot go backwards. It needs to take this franchise forward, much like TNG was the next step in Trek's evolutionary life. Fans want a story full of action, but at its core it needs what the late Michael Piller told his writers, that he... "encouraged the writers to try to find the human elements, the moral and ethical dilemmas."
Trek -and many other TV shows and movies -feel this is not what appeals to mainstream American's. But to paraphrase Field of Dreams, if you write it correctly, people will come. And if you underestimate them -which happened on Nemesis and Enterprise - they will go to another source.
Anyone hear about the new Battlestar Galactica?

01 December 2005

FOX plays chess with their schedule, NBC follows suit

Its no coincidence that NBC announced a change in their TV schedule after FOX decided to keep the follow-up results show of American Idol on Wednesday, instead of moving to Thursday as many thought they might do.

It had been thought that FOX would stay away from the 9pm Wednesday slot due to the success of ABC’s Lost -the only show that could dent American Idol’s solid winning ways. And they did, in a way. Instead of keeping That 70's Show and Stacked at the 8pm slot and then air the AI results show at 9pm, FOX will move those to shows to Thursday’s at 9. FOX will move AI to 8pm and move Bones from Tuesday’s to the sacrificial 9pm slot on Wednesday, opposite Lost.

This could, however, give FOX a solid lead in the ever important 18-49 demographic for the network for the first three days of the week. Monday’s will have Prison Break (which will return March 20 after the reality show knock-off of ABC's hit show Dancing with the Stars called Skating With the Stars ends it run) followed by a no repeat season of 24. Tuesday will lead-off with American Idol, followed by the very successful House. American Idol’s results show will start Wednesday, followed by the aftermentioned Bones. Now while the result show does not get the high ratings as the first one, it still draws in a significant young audience, which might now stick around for Bones. But, I'm sure, ABC has no worries.

Now NBC is getting into switching things on its once powerful Thursday schedule. They will bench the disappointing Joey beginning in January (the show should return in late March, but will probably be moved to Tuesday, where it should die quietly). The Peacock network will return to its late 80's halcyon days of 4 comedies between 8-10 pm, followed by ER. Will & Grace (in its last season) will now take over the lead spot on Thursday, followed by Four Kings, which comes from the creators of said W & G. The new hit My Name is Earl and critical darling -but low-rated - The Office will move from Tuesday to Thursday and anchor the 9pm hour.
Scrubs -perhaps the best comedy on TV now that Arrested Development has been cancelled - will finally return January 5, with back-to-back episodes at 9pm until they return Joey in late March to finish off what should be the Friends spin-offs final episodes, sandwiched between Fear Factor and The Biggest Loser -which will be more stand-alone than the competition based as previous editions have been.

NBC will also debut its newest fantasy show -The Book of Daniel in January. Aidan Quinn will star as Reverend Daniel Webster, an unconventional Episcopalian minister who not only believes in Jesus - he actually sees him and discusses life with him. Webster is challenged on many levels as he struggles to be a good husband, father and minister, while trying to control a nagging addiction to prescription painkillers, and an often rocky relationship with the church hierarchy, led by Bishop Beatrice and Roger Paxton, a senior warden of the parish and stalwart churchgoer. The reverend also has loving, but challenging relationships with his three children: Peter, his 23-year-old gay son; Grace, his 16-year-old daughter who doesn't try to push her father's buttons but succeeds at it nonetheless; and Adam, his 16-year-old adopted Chinese son, a handsome and cocky high school jock. Keeping Webster grounded is his strong and loving wife Judith-- who is fighting her own fondness for mid-day martinis -- as well as Jesus, whose frequent chats with Daniel remind him of his strengths and weaknesses.

Was it the fans, or was it financial?

In a follow up to a pervious post on the DVD release of the updated Doctor Who TV series, the decision to have it available here before the show gets an American distributor seems to financial. Even though the BBC will only side step that issue.

Back in summer, when the BBC announced the release of the first season on DVD in Britain, many here in the Colonies wondered if we would ever see it, especially since no network -broadcast or cable -seemed interested in it (but that might be because to get the new show, they had to buy the Original one). Then in October, the BBC said they would be releasing the Region 1 verison of the show in Canada only, as suave people north of the border seemed to know what was good, as they were the only country in North America to buy it.

But in doing so, the BBC had to realize that anyone with a home computer who could type Amazon.ca (or better yet, people who had region free DVD players and just ordered it directly from England) would be able to get it. Plus, add all the people who live close to the border of Canada who could just drive there and pick it up.

So with global access just a few keystrokes away, Burton Cromer—vice president of BBC Direct- told SCI FI Wire that the BBC made the unusual decision to release the DVD in the United States before the show had found a broadcast outlet there because the fan base was strong here in the lower 48's.

Plus, he would add, it was bound to find its way on to American TV, one way or the other.

"It will be going on television," Cromer said in an interview. "There are lots of discussions going on, and I can't really talk about that. This is a unique situation, really, because there are so many fans of Doctor Who ... already out there, and we were just finding [that] people were getting ... secondhand copies or copies from the U.K. ... We really wanted fans to get the best, most complete version in the United States as [soon as] we possibly could. So we made the decision, and it is unique, to go ahead of the TV broadcast with the DVD and to release the gift set of the DVD basically within two and a half to three months [after] the U.K. [version]."
Since its premiere earlier this year, the updated Doctor Who has been a smash hit in Great Britain, and U.S. fans have been clamoring for a way to see the series legally stateside. There's no downside to a U.S. DVD release, even if the show has yet to be seen on American TV, Cromer added. "The good news for us is that we already have that loyal fan base, but then when the show does broadcast in the U.S., we'll have a whole new fan base, because it's just a new Doctor Who: very exciting, but still the great stories and as great as the old Doctor Who," he said.
Doctor Who is gearing up production of its second season in the United Kingdom, which will appear next year. A special Christmas episode, meanwhile, will air this month. The U.S. DVD will feature the entire first season of Doctor Who, starring Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper.

30 November 2005

Doctor Who comes to DVD in the US!

In a surprise reversal, the BBC has decided to release the new Doctor Who on DVD in the United States.
Here's the news release from the sci fi wire:

The BBC told SCI FI Wire that it will release the complete first season of the new British SF TV series Doctor Who on DVD in the United States on Feb. 14, 2006, offering Americans their first official look at the hit U.K. show. BBC Video will release Doctor Who: The Complete First Series with all 13 of the first-season episodes, starring Christopher Eccleston as the immortal Timelord and Billie Piper as his sidekick, Rose, as well as more than four hours of extras. The DVD set will carry a suggested retail price of $99.98.
The BBC is choosing to release the DVD set in advance of any plans to license Doctor Who for broadcast in the United States.
The latest incarnation of the venerable British SF series debuted on the BBC last May, written by Russell T. Davies (Queer as Folk), Steven Moffat (Coupling) and Mark Gatiss (League of Gentlemen).The DVD set, virtually identical to one already available in the United Kingdom, will also feature audio commentary by cast and crew, including Davies, Piper, John Barrowman (Captain Jack), Mark Gatiss and Simon Callow; a new Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix on all episodes; more than five hours of "making of" interviews and behind-the-scenes footage; a BBC interview with Eccleston; and a behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming holiday episode The Christmas Invasion, starring David Tennant as the new Doctor, which premieres this month in the United Kingdom.

27 November 2005

Goblet of Fire

One of the challenges to the Harry Potter films, is how much to keep and how much should go. Despite the success of the first two films, most critics believed Chris Columbus stuck too close to Rowling novels. With The Prisoner of Azkaban, the producers and new director, Alfonso Cuarón, excised some the more superfluous scenes in favor of a more leaner -and linear - story.

Goblet of Fire does the same here, opening the movie with Harry and friends visit to Quidditch World Cup -and the consequences of that coming together: Death Eaters and the Dark Mark. The plot quickly returns to Hogwarts where three different wizarding schools will compete in the Triwizard Tournament.

Things quickly get out of hand as Harry is somehow selected to compete in the game, even though he is too young, While petty jealousy will nearly destroy Harry, Hermione and Ron’s friendship, the evil that is Lord Voldemort will not be undone. And Harry will finally meet the one creature who will do anything to see him dead.

Like Azkaban, Goblet flows very smoothly and director Mike Newell and screenwriter Steve Kloves not only make an enjoyable fantasy film, they also make a first rate thriller. The three challenges that Harry and the other three Triwizard students go through are well constructed, with the dragon that Harry must avoid to get the golden egg, perhaps the best action piece of the first four films.

While reading Goblet a few years ago, I remember saying how dark the series was getting, but until I saw it on the screen this past Thanksgiving Day, I did not realize how dark it really was. Rowling has done wonders here, by giving her characters faults, and not making them perfect little heroes.

And with this film, the three main actors really come into their own more, thanks, to previous director Cuarón’s decision to make them act like kids, thus giving them a three dimensional personality. Under the helm of Newell, the increasingly handsome Daniel Radcliffe becomes a very accurate teenager, full doubts about his role in Hogwarts, his growing attraction to the opposite sex and how much he needs his friends.

Emma Watson shines as Hermione, as she becomes more beautiful and talented with each film. There were two scenes which stuck with me, first her attempts to keep Harry and Ron’s friendship from going south (“I am not and owl”) and at the Yule Dance where she reveals more than ever her attraction to Ron.

Rupert Grint -who Maggie Smith has called a “born comedian” - is once more the heart and soul of this troika. His timing and his ability to be an awkward teenager who won’t admit he likes Hermione (and seems even cruel to her, at times) will strike familiar with anyone who remembers when they young and noticed that girls where very different than boys.

The only complaint I might have, is the lack of screen time for the all three of the other wizards in the game. While Cedric (the charming Robert Pattison) had the most lines, Viktor Krum (the handsome Stansilav Ianevski) and Fluer Delacour (Clémence Poésy) are given little to do other than be eye candy. Also, I was sad to see Alan Rickman’s screen time cut, also. Severus Snape is one of my favorite (but I am also happy to know what a critical part he’ll play in the latter books, so it’s not that bad). Even Tom Felton’s (who is growing like a weed) Draco takes a backseat, but it was a delight to see-if only briefly - Jason Isaacs’ return as Draco’s father, Lucius.

But equally, it was nice see Matthew Lewis’s Neville Longbottom come forward, especially, as it seems, Rowling is making this shy boy become more important to the series as a whole.

Finally, as Hermione says, everything is changed as they head home after the fourth year comes to a tragic close. Death has claimed a hero and Lord Voldemort is back and Harry Potter’s future -and the ones tied to his destiny - now must look forward to a more darker path.

Where it will lead is unknown, but the once fact remains: Harry will need all his strength to survive. And this was the first of the film that I really felt that just before the end credits began, To Be Continued... should've appeared on the screen.

24 November 2005

CBS cancels Threshold, ABC pulls the plug on Alias

After the success of Lost, ABC, NBC and CBS decided that genre shows might work again; then all three announced in May that each would have some sort of alien invasion show. ABC had Invasion, NBC announced Surface and CBS went with Threshold. Each were similar in many ways, but each were also unique. But everyone who knows TV was just curious which -if any -would survive the 2005-06 TV season.
While all three shows did not score high ratings, both ABC's Invasion and NBC's Surface were scoring with the critics and were building a dedicated audience. Still, there were many critics who were enjoying Threshold and were vocal about why the show had not yet been picked up for a full season of 22 episodes. After all, both the Alphabet and Peacock networks had given the green light for the back nine of each of their sci-fi shows.
While CBS has maintained a stronghold on the all important 18-49 demographic with its CSI franchise, Survivor, The Amazing Race and its Monday night line up, it discovered that while the Friday lead-in of The Ghost Whisperer was doing great, the audience the show built was lost when Threshold aired. Plus, it seemed, the network was supporting the low-rated CSI clone like Close To Home more than its new sci fi series -which initself is not big news. The Tiffany network is not known for producing out-and-out genre shows, sticking to the more down to earth fanatsy shows like Touched By an Angel and the quick rise-to-bust Joan of Arcadia. It also seemed that Close was generating a large female audience and had already discovered that Ghost was doing the same.
So, on Friday, November 18, CBS switched out Threshold with Close To Home and -no suprise here - the ratings for Close where better than Threshold. CBS quickly announced they were picking up Close for the remainder of the season and the show would stay put in 9pm, Friday timeslot.
On Tuesday, Novemeber 22, CBS aired Threshold in its new timeslot and predictably, the show stumbled. In its original Friday slot, the alien conspiracy show was earning a low 5.2/9 share (Nov. 5) and a 5.7/10 share (Oct. 22). Its 11/22 air date only scored a 4.4/7 share, finishing a distant third that night and giving CBS all the excuse it needed to offically cancel the show.
Its failure marks another blow to show runner Brannon Braga (who is the sole reason I stayed away from this show, other than the boring plot lines), who only this past winter was handed his walking papers when UPN cancelled Star Trek: Enterprise after four uneven seasons. And while he was recently hopefull CBS would give the go ahead to finish out the season, it was also reasonable to think that three genre shows with similar themes would not survive.
Surface has done reasonably well, despite many sci fi fans complaints that they steal directly from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And ABC's Invasion has held on, mostly because its huge lead-in audience is coming from Lost. But, if critical praise was a barometer at which to gage a success, both Surface and Invasion have won more than Threshold.
Meanwhile, in a surprise move (and something that could save Invasion), ABC announced they are pulling the plug on the five-year old spy series Alias. No clear exlpanation was given for this move, but the show is very expensive to produce and has never been the big hit ABC expected to be, judging by the several attempts over the years to reboot the shows concept to gain a higher audience.
But Alias' demise could assure a second season of Invasion. Despite full season pick-ups of both Surface and Invasion, it does not guarantee a second year. But with Alias now gone for the 2006-07 TV season, Invasion could find itself in a rather safe timslot after the Lost.
Time will tell.


The happy Thanksgiving to all

23 November 2005

Spike Returns?

When the WB cancelled Angel in January of 2003, it was done mostly for cost reasons, or so the bean counters at the Frog network would tell you. The show was the number two highest rated drama, behind the now cancelled 7th Heaven (which is ending its ten-year run in May 2006 because it is expensive). But the WB felt the shows audience was not going to grow beyond what was already there, even after the producers bowed to pressure to make the show more episodic.

One thing the WB did not realize was that Angel had a huge fanbase and would not take the cancellation sitting down. But, despite the protests and the mass petitions, Angel left the airwaves in May 2003.

However, soon after (and much later as the fall schedule of 2004 sputtered), Garth Ancier, president of WB programming, admitted that cancelling the show was probably a mistake. He said the decision was rather rushed, so it sounds like it basically came down to a coin toss. Angel loss.

Since last summer, rumors have been going around that Ancier was liking the idea of doing some TV movies (which, at the time, the WB had yet to do). Perhaps bring back the surviving cast members from Angel 's series finale -Angel himself, Spike, Gunn (who looked near death) and now-dead-Fred-possessed-by-Illyria. He mentioned in several interviews that he was willing to listen to anything Joss Whedon was willing to do.

But now Whedon was off doing Serenity and even shut down his TV division of Mutant Enemy to focus on his next film, Wonder Woman. And the cast of Angel went their different ways. David Boreanaz now is starring in the new FOX show Bones, Amy Acker will be seen on the new CBS midseason action show The Unit and J. August Richards & Alexis Densiof are doing guest shots on other shows, along with James Marsters who popped up on last seasons stink bomb known as The Mountain and has a recurring roll this season of Smallville.

Boreanaz, like Sarah Michelle Geller, has made it known that he's not ready to return as the brooding vampire, while Marsters appears to be willing to go through the bleaching again to return as Spike.

Now, after all this time, it looks like a Spike TV movie is closer to becoming a reality, as the planets and the stars seem to lining up. Anthony Stewart Head, who played Giles (and has returned to England to live and work) and who had been rumored to be doing a possible Giles TV series for the BBC has made mention in the latest issue of the Buffy the Vampire Magazine that the long talked about TV series may now become a "TV movie that might be a part of a series of DVD's that we are talking about doing for different characters from the shows."

This appears to where 20th Century Fox is going towards, since they own the rights to both Buffy and Angel and has heard the cha ching of register sales on both shows on DVD. Plus, series producer/writer Marti Noxon told the scifi wire that "There are serious discussions going on about bringing some of the characters back and making a few movies that will go straight to DVD, but they will certainly be the quality they've alawys have been."

Now the syfy portal has is reporting that writer Tim Minear, who wrote for both TV shows and Whedon's short lived Firefly, will write and direct a Spike TV movie. He is reported -in the same magazine - as being asked by Whedon to do the film. It is also noted that talks are underway not only to bring back Marsters as Spike, but also Amy Acker as Illyria.

The time frame for this movie -and eventual release on DVD- is unknown. But, I'm sure we'll be keeping all our ears open -and our necks covered in garlic.

18 November 2005

12 Songs

For many Diamond fans, ever since the Jazz Singer, the man has put out one tepid album after another. Hey, I’m all for expanding the career and going in different directions, but with the album that went with the movie -and which I think sold more than theater tickets, Diamond went into overdrive with over produced songs with pedantic lyrics and looking like a real bad Las Vegas lounge singer. I mean, he’s not as bad as the creepy Celine Dion, but his fans base became the stereotypical blue-haired lady set that needed umpteen encores of Forever in Blue Jeans.
I started listening to Diamond when the classic double vinyl album Hot August Night came out. Man, that is just one brilliant concert record.
Over the years, I would enjoy the follow ups -like under-rated Beautiful Noise - but some where in the late 1980's, early 90's, Diamond took an odd turn. It began, I think, with Headed For the Future -but I could be wrong. It was then that Kraft should’ve really started to sponsor his live shows, as the he began to really put on the cheese.
Even after he claimed he got his muse back with Three Cord Opera, I still felt that Diamond was more concerned with sequine shirts and entertaining middle aged women who thought he was more romantic than their husbands.
However, with a few exemptions, 12 Songs is a terrific throwback to his early career. Producer Rick Rubin shaves back the glam that overtook Neil in the last decade or so, and in doing so, makes Diamond shine.

Now, here’s something I got from Amazon.com reviewer named monoblocks from Seattle, Washington. It was something I was not aware of, and may have opened my computer to attack.
The good news was he like the CD, but "...The bad news is of course the vile rootkit technology that Sony decided to use in their digital rights management strategy that others here have previously alerted website visitors to, which if you're a Windows PC computer user means VERY bad things in the long term (and not-so-long term, given recent announcements in the past day or so). Rootkits are simply put, bad news. This one that Sony chose to use embeds itself into Windows so deeply that even Windows is powerless to track its operation. You don't and won't know that it's operating, period. That in and of itself is bad enough, because it allows Sony to track and monitor whatever it wants. By allowing this to install on your Windows PC (and to play '12 Songs' on your PC, you HAVE TO allow it to install), you've given Sony that priveledge by clicking 'yes' on the end-user licensing agreement that you DIDN'T read and just automatically glossed over. Virus and malware writers are now grinning ear to ear because Sony, in their own zealous anti-piracy foolishness has released to the world cloaking technology that when hacked will allow the evil doers of the internet to get their trojans, worms and viruses to reside on your Windows computer, to open your machine to WHATEVER THEY want your computer to do, without the user ever being the wiser. Sony's little spyware foray just got REALLY bad. Online banking? The invisible trojan will simply log all your keystrokes and phone home with the data...and you and your firewall, anti-virus and spyware software will NEVER have known. Turn your machine into a spamming zombie? Again, thanks to Sony's clandestine rootkit, you will never know, at least until your internet provider turns off your service because your computer has become one of the worst porn and conterfeit Viagra junk mailers on the Web. Thanks to Sony and their partner, First 4 Internet (the creators of this rootkit), if you use 12 Songs on your computer, you've just opened the door to the worst that the internet has to offer. And as of November 10, 2005, that door has been swung WIDE open. Symantec, the makers of Norton Anti-Virus, as well as other AV companies, have reported the first 'bot' trojans and viruses are now live and living on the internet, taking full advantage of this rootkit's stealth technology. But with this first batch of malware, ONLY those people who have played SonyBMG CDs like 12 Songs or Carlos Santana's latest are vulnerable. I feel your pain, or more accurately, your pain to come. To date, there are few precious measures that will allow you to simply remove this hole from your computer (though it sounds like Computer Associates may now have a tool available soon); Sony's OWN procedure to remove this involves emailing their customer service division to get specific instructions; how EASY those instructions are I don't know...I'm so far rootkit-free (and plan on staying this way). If you're intent on buying the 12 Songs CD (and musically, it's DEFINITELY worth it), please save yourself some agony and use this disc ONLY in stand-alone CD players, or on Apple Mac and Linux-based PCs (rootkits have not been released for those formats...at least yet). Or buy a download version, like from iTunes Music Store. If you're as upset with Sony as I am, you might consider not buying this collection at all, as a form of boycott protest over Sony's own foolishness and hand in giving virus writers an open avenue to your computer; but that's up to your own conscience and whether you mind that by buying this and similar infested CDs Sony will profit from your future infection misery. Musically, this is INDEED one great album, something that DESERVES to be listened to and enjoyed for years to come. It's a crying shame that Sony chose to forever tarnish its luster by releasing this disc with such foolhardy security holes. I still rate this music a 5, but the disc and its malware a BIG FAT ZERO. Well, at least when the Bank of America, GM, Citigroup, your power company, etc., get crippled with viruses and trojans courtesy of this cloaking rootkit, you will know and understand WHY Sony will have gone out of business under the mountain of lawsuits it was buried under as a result.

11 November 2005

FOX cancels Arrested Development

During the World Series, FOX promoted the hell out of Prison Break (along with a few of their new shows and some of the returning ones). It worked, and the show has succeed in the ratings and has gotten good critical praise.
I'm not sure if they promoted Arrested Development, but they sure didn't as much as Prison Break. Sure the World Series was low rated (except maybe in Chicago and Houston), but that does not explain why FOX continued to ignore AD.
Yesterday, FOX announced that they were pulling AD -along with the lame Kitchen Confidential - for the remainder of the November sweeps. This comes on the heels of AD's return to the schedule on November 7 after the baseball induced hiatus. The double episode only scored about 4 million viewers (where a rerun of Prison Break the week before scored 5.9 million). They also cut the episode order from 22 to 13. Basically, they cancelled the show (without "officially" saying it) and told the producers of Kitchen that they should not expect an order for anymore shows beyond the 13 they requested.
Thus, Arrested Development now becomes another notch on the wall of shows that die long before they should. The show is funny, brilliantly acted and written. The narration from executive producer Ron Howard is as droll as the comedy on the screen.
So why did this happen? Well, obviously -and maybe a tad stereotypically - it failed because Americans are stupid and TV networks create shows for an auidence with a 12th grade education. Its the only way to explain reality programming and endless parade of procedural shows.
Satire is lost on Americans, and shows like Arrested Development (and others like Undeclared, Wonderfalls and Freaks and Geeks) which swim in its ocean, seem to get lost. Comedy shows like Two and Half Men, Still Standing, Yes, Dear, Joey, Will & Grace, all the WB and UPN "urban" sitcoms somehow all remain on the air, despite them all -with a few exceptions - have leached the humor out once was a vibrant business. And AD's cancellation comes on the heels of ABC picking up the pedantic Freddie for a full season.
There is no justice.
While FOX has been known to take risks with such shows as 24, the aftermentioned Prison Break, The X Files, The Simpsons (which has lost a crap load of its originality) and Malcom in the Middle (which has outlived its usefullness), it has continued to go after the lowest common denominator with such shows as American Idol, The War at Home, Family Guy and its endless association with ubiquitous - and hateful -Paris Hilton. And the network acts like baboons on crack when it comes to its programming. Basically, if you are not a hit from the get go, don't expect to survive. So with that philosophy, it seems surprising that FOX would develope a show such as this, knowing full well that its core audience -the straight, white male - will ignore it.
Maybe its a case of just not letting another network take the show -even though ABC,NBC and CBS are all going after the same demographic as FOX.
Because Arrested was a risky show -which (borrowed from the AD web site) revolves around Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman), the “normal” one in a family of crazies, who is forced to stay in Orange County and run the family real estate business after his father, George Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor), is sent to prison for shifty accounting practices. While George Sr. spent the last year in the slammer discovering his newfound Judaism and recording inspirational tapes, Michael spent it picking up the pieces and trying to teach his offbeat family how to live without an endless expense account. All the while, Michael has also been trying to do right by his 14-year-old son, George Michael (Michael Cera), an earnest kid who works diligently at the family’s frozen banana stand. The Bluths are led by manipulative matriarch Lucille (Jessica Walter), a socialite who is as icy as her martinis. Then there’s the oldest son, GOB (Will Arnett), a womanizer and struggling magician (sorry, “illusionist”) whose biggest trick will be to make a real job appear. The youngest brother is Buster (Tony Hale), a neurotic professional grad student and glorified mama’s boy (he spent 11 months in the womb). The Bluth siblings are rounded out by cause-obsessed sister Lindsay (Portia de Rossi), who is married to the hapless Tobias (David Cross), a doctor-turned-actor who might get more work if he wasn’t a self-proclaimed “never-nude.” Lindsay and Tobias are the ultra-permissive parents of Maeby (Alia Shawkat), a 14-year-old who loves finding unique ways to rebel against their overindulgence. It substituted belly laughs and paint-by-number jokes with sly humor and it let its very talented cast -along some brilliant guest star turns - get real loose with a show that played with a less than linear plot line. The show -in its first season -earned 7 Emmy nods and walked away with three, including Best Comedy Show (a rarity in the TV award business). And while in season two, the producers made it more accessible, by toning down the criss-crossing story arcs, and making each episode more self-contained and exiled the subtle references while adding physical comedy, the show was still the funniest on TV.
But it seems that all was for naught. Americans, who seem to want an endless parade of Law & Order and CSI clones and think lame comedies such as Freddie, and whatever ABC airs on Fridays are funny is killing perhaps the most hilarious show in decades.
Through their stupidity and desire not be challenged by TV, shows like Arrested Develpoment are forced to die long before the deserve and while, thanks to DVD's, they will live on, its still a sad commentary and one that forces me day in and day out to consider finally pulling the plug on cable and keeping the TV only for DVD's.
Maybe then I could finally get to Confederacy of Dunces -another piece of satirical work - that would be lost on NASCAR (i.e. most FOX viewers) set of folks who think TV Guide is equivalent to reading Les Miserables.

09 November 2005

Eye Candy

A fired Brosnan rants to Playboy

Pierce Brosnan spoke to Playboy Magazine about his 10 year stint as James Bond and the recent decision for Sony and Eon Production to replace him with Daniel Craig.

Since the last Bond film, Die Another Day, the billion dollar franchise has been stuck, mostly due to MGM being sold to Sony. Plus, both Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson were fearing franchise "stagnation" after Die -though a success -did not perform as well as expected.

Plus, Brosnan was making little comments about how he disliked the quips Bond made and felt that the series needed to make and take more risks. What follows is excerpts (via CommanderBond.net) from the Bond related parts of the interview, where he expresses a lot of bitterness about his years as Bond, plus he takes on former Bond actor George Lazenby:

Playboy: Where you ready to step down as James Bond?
Brosnan: It would have been a trip to do another one. I prepared myself to do it. I psyched myself. But they have set sail. The made their decision. They want to reinvent it and make it a period piece. The want to get a younger guy. I'll always be known as Bond, but now I don't have the responsibility of being an ambassador for a small country ruled by a character."

Playboy: How does it feel to be told that you're too old?
Brosnan: It was kind of shocking to have ageism come on me when I was just getting started. It's shocking to be told that you're too old, that you're past your sell-by date.

Playboy: Do we detect some bitterness?
Brosnan: It's bloody frustrating that the f*ckers pulled the rug when they did. It was like, "Come on, we're family here. You talk about being a family. You know my late wife; you know my family now. Yet I get a call from my agents at five in the afternoon in the Bahamas, and I hear that you've shut down negotiations because you don't know how, where or which way to go and that you'll call me next Friday?" What can I say? It's cold, it's juvenile, and it shouldn't be done like that, not after 10 years and four films.

When asked how he assessed his four Bond films (GoldenEye,1995; Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997; The Word Is Not Enough, 1999; Die Another Day, 2002) the actor responded:

Brosnan: All the movies made money. Creatively, maybe, they could have been stronger, but they were Bond movies, and they advanced a certain degree out of the dolddrums where they had been. They were tricky to do. I never really felt as as though I nailed it. As soon as they put me into a suit and tie and gave me those lines of dialogue, I felt restricted. It was like the same old same old. I was doing Roger Moore doing Sean Connery doing George Lazenby. I felt as if I were doing a period piece dusted off. They never really took the risks they should have. [...] It would have been great to light up and smoke cigarettes, for instance. It would have been great to have the killing a little more real and not wussed down. My boys watch the movies on DVD, so I see them from time to time. I see myself with nowhere to go, and it's all rather bland.

Brosnan went on to expresses his disappointment that the sex scenes in his Bond films where never steamy enough for his own tastes ("It would have been great to have sex scenes that were right on the button."). When asked who would be his ideal Bond Girl, Brosnan had this to say:

Brosnan: Monica Bellucci is a ravishing beauty -- a gorgeous, gorgeous woman. She screen-tested to be a Bond girl a while back and the fools said no. Teri Hatcher stole the day instead.
Asked about the reports of his clashes with Teri Hatcher in the set of Tomorrow Never Dies, Pierce explained:

Brosnan: The Teri Hatcher incident was blown out of proportion. She was late to set because she was newly pregnant. I didn't know that until the end of the day. [...] I was vexed because I had a call time of six or seven AM, and we didn't do any work until three or four in the afternoon. No one told me her situation until afterwards. By that time I'd already shot my mount off and cussed and moaned and groaned. That's all it was, a storm in a teacup.

The most bizarre part of the interview is when the topic of former Bond star George Lazenby arose. This has garnered some outside press attention.

Playboy: How about George Lazenby, who played 007 in On Her Majesty's Secret Service? He once said about you, "If he walked into a room, I doubt anyone would look up. But this is the 1990s and women want a man who shows his feminine side. Pierce definitely has that.
Brosnan: George is just an angry, old, pissed-off guy. He was never an actor but some pissed-off Aussie who doesn't know how to show his feminine side. I met him, and he's got that kind of brittle edge to him. People want to take swipes. I have no idea why.

Brosnan went on to suggest Clive Owen would make a good James Bond, but when the conversation turned to his new film, The Matador, Brosnan once again let his fury fly:

Brosnan: I would like to see this film be a glorious poke in the eye to certain parties and to be a success and have other glorious roles follow in it's wake. [...] When the f*ckers try and hem you in with Bond, it's great to come back with The Matador. It's great to say, "F*ck you, a**hole. F*ck you who wouldn't give me a job. F*ck you who thought I was some wuss. F*uck you, who thought I was a pretty boy. F*ck you, who thought anything of me without even knowing me or giving me the chance. F*ck you." But when you go around with all that inside you all the time, you end up completely mangled so you have to let it go.

07 November 2005

Gay Cowboys?

People are already complaining about Brokeback Mountain, the Ang Lee adaptation of Pulitzer Prize winning authors E. Anne Proulx novella about two cowboys who meet up in the wilds of Wyoming in 1963 and begin a 20 year love affair. Called by many "the gay western", the film promises to pull no punch, as in nudity and explicit gay sex.

Now, while the script bounced around Hollywood for years, it wasn’t until Lee -who helmed another gay themed film, the delightful Wedding Banquet -took interest in it, that it finally went ahead. Casting Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as the two cowboys, Ang Lee is quick to point out that the film and even its stars see it more as a love story between two men who really don’t understand how this all began.

"He’s always battling his genetic structure, " Ledger said of his character of Ennis Del Mar. "He was battling the traditions and morals and fears and beliefs that have been passed down to him, and they’ve been imbedded in him so deeply, he couldn’t get past them."

Of course, this is what many gay men and women have gone through for generations. And if you live in one of those red states, the hatred of ones self is driven in even more.

This movie also takes on the mystique of the cowboy. The illusions created by Hollywood and novelist such as Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey about the cowboys of the 19th Century have been fully ingrained in the minds of American’s. The white hat cowboy was good, ethical and always macho. And the girls swooned. Even the bad cowboys were portrayed as macho, and even then the girls -who liked the bad boy - would swoon.

And while no one complained much about Clint Eastwood’s 1992 Oscar winning film Unforgiven, which took on those classic oaters and blurred the line between heroes and villains and man and mythology, Brokeback Mountain is drawing some ire from folks in Wyoming, the state in which it is set (and also, coincidently, where three teenagers murdered gay student Matthew Shepard years ago).

Playwright and life-long Wyomingite Sandy Dixon told the Casper Star Tribune she’s never met a gay cowboy (that she knows of, really. Never heard of Gay Rodeos?) and feels that Hollywood should not portray the state of Wyoming with gay cowboys. "Don't try and take what we had, which was wonderful -- the cowboys that settled the state and made it what it was -- don't ruin that image just to sell a book." She added, "There's nothing better than plain old cowboys and the plain old history without embellishing it to suit everyone." Regarding the reaction of Wyoming people to the film, Dixon said it depends on the viewer: "Those that want to make a queer story out of it, they will, and those that know real cowboys will say it's all hogwash."

Of course, this is typical rhetoric from closed minded people. And the people of the state were not too pleased with Proulx’s short story collection Close Range anyways, when it was published in 1999. The writer explained to the newspaper this past spring "that when a writer places deviant characters in a setting people love, the writer will get a lot of flak. But as a historian and an observer, she said she writes what she sees. "It is dysfunction that attracts me," she said."

The film won the Golden Lion, the top prize at the Venice Film Festival earlier this fall, and it was reported that there was not a dry eye in the house after a screening at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado. The film is also garnering a lot of Oscar buzz. Still, New York Daily News critic Jack Mathews predicts the gay cowboy movie may be "too much for red-state audiences, but it gives the liberal-leaning Academy a great chance to stick its thumb in conservatives' eyes."

But Matthews maybe right. It will be an Art House film, playing in major cities and will never get out to ‘burbs and the megaplex’s that show four screens of latest crapfest starring Vin Diesel. It will play in some red states, but expect it to be a bi-coastal player with Chicago maybe being the only big city in the Midwest to report significant grosses.

And while Brokeback Mountain (which opens December 9) could be a pipe dream that shows the world that gay people are your brothers, sisters, father, mothers and everything in between, it could also reignite the hate that conservatives already have for people like me and my fellow gay humans.