Friday, May 30, 2008

Your Buddy, Your Pally, Your Season Finale: "Lost"

What Happened, Basically (in no particular order, because what's the point, really?):
1) The original castmembers: The Oceanic 6, more through chance than design, made their way off-island, and concocted a cover-story to keep the rest of the islanders safe from any further Widmore-related attacks.

2) The newer favorites: Charlotte and Miles decided to stay on the island for reasons known only to them; Daniel Faraday (I like using his full name) tried like hell to leave (also for reasons known only to him), only to be sucked away with the island mid-boat-trip; Frank Lapidus (same here) flew the Oceanic 6 to "safety"; Desmond was reunited with Penny (much sooner than I expected, actually) when she found the group out at sea.

3) The Island/The Islanders: In "moving the island" (which, appeared to be a literal event - or at least a "re-cloaking" of the location), Ben was cast out, while Locke took on the role of new Others leader with a weird little smile; Sawyer's stuck with Juliet, and...shit, I can't even keep track, how many more castmembers are there?!

4) Who died? Well, by appearances (read: I'll believe it when I see bodies), mean sonufabitch mercenary Keamy (first during an extended knock-down fight with Sayid, then definitively during a much shorter encounter with Ben), Jin (blowed up real good with the freighter), and Michael (but c'mon - he got visited by ghost-Jack's-Dad, so...probably not so much).

5) Flash-Forward Stuff: Turns out burn-out addict Jack, responsible-mom Kate, assassin-Sayid, and nutso-Hurley were all visited by an undercover Locke, before his "suicide" (he's the body in the coffin from last year's finale); Sun, now a hardcore corporate type, is forging some kind of alliance with Charles Widmore; and Ben visited Jack with a proposition for getting back to the island, provided everyone - including Body of Locke - comes along.
6) Misc: Walt visited Hurley, and, uh...well, that's puberty for you. And a lot of other shit I can't remember happened, too. Come on, that was a pretty good recap there, considering I'm not getting paid by Television Without Pity, right?

How Good Was It?:
Very good, in the sense that the middle of a good book is good. Not at all satisfying on its own, but for what it sets up, hoooo-boy. This year's finale was all about prepping the structure and dropping hints for the next two years.

Which is to say: Now is not the time to jump on board with this show. If you've never watched it, borrow or Netflix the previous seasons. If you gave up during season 3 like everyone else, sit down with a friend who watches and prepare to ask a lot of questions that get flustered responses of "...Look, don't worry about that right now."

But god bless ABC for trying to get new viewers involved anyway, by occasionally airing one of their pop-up-info reruns, where a text box at the base of the screen tells you thinks it thinks you're apparently too stupid to piece together for yourself. Tidbits like, "Sawyer gives a lot of people nicknames," and "These are C4 explosives" during the scene where you can clearly read "C4" on the EXPLOSIVES the characters are all talking about.


My favorite character bits were the rare displays of deadpan humor. While Hurley and Sawyer (and Sayid, for a drier joking style) are usually the go-to comic relief characters, lately it's been Ben and Miles walking away with the prize:

When somewhat-psychic Miles tells Charlotte he knows she was on the island before, she cagily asks, "What do you mean?" to which he replies, mock-dumbly, "Yyeeaahh...what do I mean?" and walks away. And pretty much any time Ben has to explain anything to Locke, the two become the mystical-messiah equivalents of Laurel and freaking Hardy.

Did the Strike Hurt the Season?:
Yes and no. On the one hand, the tightened season forced them to streamline the story a little bit, which means there was virtually no filler on any episode. On the other hand, that meant the audience had a lot of paying attention to do, since there wasn't much slowing down to explain (which is going to make for a few frustrating episodes next year, I'm sure, as they actually spell out some things for the slower viewers).

Based on producer interviews, the short straws apparently got pulled by the new characters (the "freighties" - and let me just say now how sick I am of every little fucking thing getting a nickname on this show, especially when it gets referenced later BY A CHARACTER). Fleshing-out flashbacks for Miles, Charlotte, Frank and Daniel were planned but unfortunately postponed until next year. This does not bother me, because it ensures that four well-concocted new characters will get to stick around for at least one more season.

What I Hope Happens Next Year:
Man, that's a loaded question, since "what I hope for" versus "what the producers will give me" might likely be two very different things. But for the hell of it, here's what I think will happen:

1) The structure of the show will shift to the Oceanic 6, etc.'s attempts to return to the island as the main plot, with the island action taking the flashback role;

2) The time-tossed romance of Desmond Hume and Penny Widmore will remain a focal point - particularly as revenge-minded Ben (and by extension, Sayid) targets Charles Widmore's daughter, setting Desmond directly at odds with the rest of the cast;

3) More goddamn shit I can't reasonably explain.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It's fun to look at failure. Yes, a few successes here and there, but at the end of the graduating TV Show class of 2007, it's nice to take some time and laugh at the dropouts.

So What Died Screaming?

Bionic Woman: No loss. It was crap.
Journeyman: Slightly more of a loss. It was boring, but mostly because it had to set up the basic rules of its time-traveling premise before it could get into the interesting, weird territory - like "what if he accidentally changed the timeline?" A great big "oh well," with the hope that Kevin McKidd is now freed up for better things.


Cane: Hooray, now Nestor Carbenell can appear on "Lost" without any big contract issues!
Moonlight: Hooray, now I don't have to deal with people who never watched "Angel" telling me this show "really wasn't that bad"!
Jericho: Because my dear friend Pam and her family liked it, I will not laugh at the fact that CBS got the rare opportunity to cancel a show twice. Heh. (That was a snicker, not a laugh!)


Nothing you didn't see coming during its first two weeks of airtime. Y'know. "Cavemen."
God, just look at that picture. Live and learn, ABC. Live and learn.


I feel a bit bad here. EVERYTHING they put out got cancelled this year, save for "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles." Granted, none of it was much good, but who knows? Maybe "New Amsterdam" might've gotten better. I mean, I stopped watching two episodes in, but I keep my ear to the ground, y'know?

So What, Through Whatever Arcane Means, Survived?
Here's the neat thing about the surviving fall shows: because of the strike, anything that wrapped up its season around, say, December, will be getting a huge push in the fall, like they're brand-new series. The problem with that? Count on a few pain-in-the-ass "Getting the newbies up to speed" episodes that are utterly redundant to returning viewers. Que serra.

Chuck: Blandly pleasant to the point of being incorporeal, but as long as Adam Baldwin has a job, I'm happy.
Life: I actually heard this (also bland) Zen Detective series got better as it went along. Might be worth Netflixing the DVD, I'll let you know.


Reaper: Once again - heard it got a little more involved during later episodes, so it'll be back by mid-season. It was a fun enough show, but repetitive stories and slack pacing put it on the back, back, back burner for me. Once again, if the DVD's worth it, I'll tell you.


Pushing Daisies: Yaaaaaaay!
Dirty Sexy Money: Really? Huh. Okay.
Eli Stone: Oh, COME ON.


The Big Bang Theory: Jeez, really? I guess people who don't actually hang out with nerds enjoy the vicarious thrill.


Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Just like with "Chuck," as long as fellow "Firefly" alum Summer Glau has a regular gig, I'm happy. And one more time, say it with me now: we'll see if the season 1 DVD's any good. Apparently, the show really pulled together once they introduced Brian Austin Green's character. That's one of those sentences you never expect to write.


Next: "Lost" finale
Upcoming: The absolute abortion that appears to be the fall season; and: What the hell are you gonna watch during the summer?

Stick with us, TV watcher. Just because the season's over, it doesn't mean the Global Stronghold's shutting down.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Puppy Bowl"'s Biggest Fan

(Guest-written by Molson, lead hench-dog at the I Speak TV Global Stronghold)

Hi everyone! Hi! Hi!

I just saw this TV show, and it's the best TV I've ever been distracted by! Oh, boy, is it great!

It's better than the commercial where a doorbell rings, which always excites me. And it's better than that other commercial where there's a dog in it. That one was pretty cool, but not like this.

This show - no, that's not right, it's more like sports. I'm not sure what sports are. I know they make some of the people around here bark at the TV. But it never barks back, which I think is maybe a bit mean.

Anyway, it's called "Puppy Bowl," and on it? Right? There are dogs! Dogs like me! And they run around, and they drink water, and they play, and they play, and they play! Oh boy, is it great! I said that already, but it still is!

The other dogs run around and look right out at the screen, and it's like they want me to play with them. So I stand up and bark, right? But not like how the other people do it, I'm not mad at them, I want them to know I like them, and I wanna play with them too!

And y'know what? They bark back! And then they run around more! It's the greatest thing ever!

Someone here just said the word "hyperbole." I don't know what that is, but I'll bet it's fun!

But I'll bet it's not as fun as watching "Puppy Bowl" all day! I'll bet I could. But watching it sorta tired me out, so I'm gonna go take a nap wherever the guys here like to walk around a lot.

Hey, that reminds me: Isn't walking fun? Aw, man, sometimes I just walk for...ooh boy...sleepy. How do these people type all the tatk;js s;kadl; tkj;oiare;ajrkej;goiar;ejig;geihoh'eoeaoihgiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

(Guest columnist Molson is a professional small dog who has lived in the ISTV Global Stronghold for as long as he can remember. It is a length of time impressive only to him. In his role as lead hench-dog, he is chief engineer of barking at imaginary noises he thinks he hears.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Your Buddy, Your Pally, Your Season Finale: "House"

What Happened, Basically: The show did its semi-annual break with the formula in order to indulge in some pretty interesting "House solves a case based on his own fractured memories/hallucinations." Eventually, it's revealed that the mystery victim is Amber (formerly fellowship candidate "Cut-throat Bitch" and currently Wilson's girlfriend/walking external spine). Who then DIES, forcing Robert Sean Leonard to pull on his puffy thespian pants and do some hardcore Acting. I tease – he did a hell of a job with one of the saddest scenes in the series.

How Good Was It?: The potential crapness of going back into House's brain for a finale after it was already done to finish Season Two was offset by the emotional resonance and genuine shock of Amber's accident/death. And the gaping implausibility of House being up and around after suffering a skull fracture and a heart attack was eased by Hugh Laurie's intrinsic awesomeness (actually, the entire cast was just acting the hell out of this two-parter).
This is par for the course with "House," as it has slowly but surely given up on pretensions of plausibility while remaining a solidly entertaining hour of TV.

Did the Strike Hurt the Season: Hoo-boy, did it. The only benefit – breaking right after choosing the three new cast members gave it a kind of "intermission" feeling – was lost by not having nearly enough episodes to properly balance the newbies with the older cast (even though they seemed to have fun finding different ways to cram Jesse Spencer into an episode – he's House's bowling buddy! He knows surgical hypnosis! – or, alternatively, having him bolt out of the main plot at the earliest convenience).

What I Hope Happens Next Year: 1) They come up with a half-plausible reason for putting an intensive care physician in charge of the surgery department, and an immunologist in charge of the ER (while leaving Foreman, an actual neurosurgeon, in Diagnostic Medicine)…I mean, really, show; 2) They strike a better balance between the Dangerous Drug Addict House of Season 3 and the Wacky Uncle Misanthrope House of Season 4. This was hinted at by the last episode, where House was able to admit to Amber in dream how deeply unhappy he really is. And coupled with his guilt over his perceived complicity in Amber's death, an interesting character arc may have been set up for Season 5. (Then again, they jettisoned three main characters at the end of last season without a good plan for getting out of that one, so…)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Your Buddy, Your Pally, Your Season Finale: A Comedy Tonight!

(About the title, I'm sorry. The Global Stronghold's atomic title generator hasn't worked right ever since our lead hench-dog pooped on the controls.)
Finale: "The Office"

What Happened, Basically: Jim's attempted proposal to Pam was derailed by Andy's impromptu proposal to Angela; Ryan's coke-fueled business fraud led to his arrest; and Michael actually managed to flirt successfully with new HR rep Amy Ryan before getting blindsided by the return of a pregnant (but not by Michael-seed...sorry for that phrase, really) Jan. Also, Amy Ryan was under the mistaken impression that Kevin was retarded - an impression Kevin did nothing to dissuade.

How Good Was It?:
Pretty damn good. The show manages to keep the Jim-Pam dynamic fresh by just letting them be a fun, pleasant couple who make sense together (without being cloying) while successfully shifting the "Will they/Won't they" thing to, of all people, Dwight and Angela. And Michael's unhappy return to Jan because he's going to be "kind of a daddy" underscored the season's overarching plot of abusing Michael's life at every turn just to see if he eventually notices how bad shit has gotten (they whipped Jim and Pam around for three seasons, so it's only fair to aim the misery in a new direction).

Did the Strike Hurt the Season?: Yeah, a little. Even though it more or less added up to a full run thanks to the front end's double-episodes, they clearly had to rush some plot points, like the Ryan-as-morally-bankrupt-yuppy thing and the resulting Ryan-Jim animosity (which really could've used a few more episodes to breathe). Still...minor issues they can certainly handle more fully next year - here, and on the upcoming top-secret spin-off. (Also, according to Jenna Fischer's blog, they were as bummed about what got left out as anyone. So.)

What I Hope Happens Next Year: 1) They don't try screwing with the Jim-Pam relationship (note to TV producers still twitchy about romantic chemistry because of fucking "Moonlighting" 20 years ago: Sometimes two people get together and it's NICE and it WORKS); 2) Amy Ryan comes back, and they don't ever bother explaining to her that Kevin's not retarded (this is a joke that could go on for years!); 3) The spin-off doesn't suck, and features Toby.


Finale: "How I Met Your Mother"

What Happened, Basically: Wow, fuck if I know. Turns out, if you miss the first ten minutes of this show, the rest of it makes no sense. None. All the running gags and themes are set up by the first commercial break, and if you don't tune in by then...damn!

How Good Was It?: To the extent that I understood it? Well, the Barney-Ted reconciliation was sweet, and Barney's realization of his burgeoning love for Robin is even sweeter.

Did the Strike Hurt the Season?: No, if anything it helped. I'm a big proponent of the cable model of 13-episode seasons, so the shortened run meant the focus of the season - Ted's foray into Barneydom, its consequences, and how he got back on track - was a lot tighter and more meaningful (particularly when you see that while The Maturation of Ted is the main point of the show, The Accidental Maturation of Barney has been a great through-line of the season).

What I Hope Happens Next Year: 1) The Mother is introduced (I'm not convinced it's Sarah Chalke's character just yet) and we can start some kind of end run (since this is a show with a built-in expiration date - how people in their twenties learn to become Real Adults - and if you want to see what happens once a show goes past the end of that theme, go ahead and watch "Scrubs" [see below]); 2) the Barney-Robin relationship is explored intelligently (read: not annoyingly - see previous "Moonlighting" nervousness).


Finale: "30 Rock"

What Happened, Basically: Pregnancy scare for Liz (really scary when you consider it was almost noogie-extolling Beeper King Dennis); Jack Donaghey suffered through a position in the Bush Administration while inspiring his new best friend, the Bush-nicknamed "Cooter Burger" ("No crying in the bathtub for me tonight!"); Tracy successfully completed the world's first porno video game.

How Good Was It?:
For the second straight year, "30 Rock" has created a unique blend of absurdist political humor (even Proud Republican Jack is embarrassed by the current administration's lack of anything approaching logic - or pens), sincere character development (Liz's muddied attempts to get her life both successful and fulfilling, without any real idea how normal people do that), and just flat-out lunatic bits (the porno videogame). I love this show so much.

Did the Strike Hurt the Season?: Yeah. The short run meant the many secondary and tertiary characters were pretty much MIA (Toofer? Pete? Hello?), and the show's ability to meander into quirkily inconsequential sideplots went with them. (And recent interviews have shown Tina Fey is totally aware how beloved all the side characters are, and will make pains next year to include them.)

What I Hope Happens Next Year?:
An honest-to-god plotline for Pete Hornberger. Also, seeing just a little bit of that porno video game might not hurt.

Finale: "Scrubs"
What Happened, Basically: The creators had an exhaustive group-wank over their love for The Princess Bride and did a fantasy-retelling of a medical case. It was about as funny as the last episode of "The Simpsons." And if you didn't bother to see the last episode of "The Simpsons,"...well, that should tell you a lot.

How Good Was It?: Seriously, we only watched it because we were waiting for "The Office." It's fucking terrible these days. Though it is evilly fun to watch Zach Braff's face age into grotesque fishiness (enjoy your character-actor bits as an old man, you pompous jackass!).

Did the Strike Hurt the Season?: Through mind-boggling logic, it actually helped this increasingly annoying series, as they somehow earned a "farewell" season on ABC next year, even though all its characters and plotlines were exhausted by the end of season 3, and now everyone on it is just annoying as all hell.

What I Hope Happens Next Year: An asteroid falls on the hospital two minutes into the first episode; only Dr. Cox survives, and in minute three he goes home to his wife and kids and shuts the door behind the viewing audience so we don't have to watch any more of this heartbreak that used to be an amusing series.

Tomorrow: "House"
Late Next Week: "Lost"
Inbetween: Hey, remember how there were all those fall shows that got totally sideswiped by the writers strike? We're going to talk about them - or what's left of them. Also "24" and "Heroes" will be discussed. Because if we don't talk about them when they're not on, how do we know they exist?

(Oh yeah, DVDs. Well, still.)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I Hate TV: Commercials

Here at the ISTV Global Stronghold, tensions are running high. The minions are getting twitchy, no matter how many times they receive the poke of the Cattle Prod of Doom.

Maybe it’s the sudden end of the truncated 2008-2009 television season. Maybe it’s a sense of dread when the announcements of new fall shows all read as painfully as they do. Maybe it’s a recent reminder that, in defiance of GOD'S WILL, “According to Jim” continues to draw breath.

As a response to the morale issues, work on our orbiting death ray has accelerated.

Target one: commercials that offend our senses (Target two: Jim Belushi).

In any event, until the laser is operational, the minions have had to get creative in their terrorism. So they've taken to simply rewriting their commercial-nemeses, for clarity and honesty:

“Sex in the City: The Movie”:
One of the four women: EEEEEEEE!!!
(Martini glasses clink together)
[Repeat, over, and over, and over, until excruciating.]


KY Massage Products:
Man: When my clearly upper-class girlfriend and I are doing something that isn’t explicitly referred to as “sex,” we like and/or need to use this product. Which we are not explicitly referring to as “sex lube.”
Woman: Because we’re pretty sure you can’t say “sex lube” on American TV commercials.
Man: Certainly not on primetime network TV. Man, how’d we even get on during “Lost”?
Woman: By agreeing not to say “sex lube,” dear.
Man: That’s right, honey. Hey, wanna do something on this bed we’re sitting on that is likely but not specifically referred to as “sex”?
Woman: Do I! Hey, bring the not-necessarily-sex-lube!

...And yes, we have a team examining the feasibility of TiVo within the Stronghold.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I Hate TV: NBC

Watching the otherwise perfect "30 Rock"/"The Office" block, an anger arose in me. Not because of the shows - "30 Rock"'s season finale was awesome, with only one minor complaint - NOT ENOUGH PETE HORNBERGER! - and "The Office" wasn't the best of the season, meaning it was only really hilarious and not astoundingly hilarious.

But I couldn't shake the nagging feeling of irritation.

As luck would have it, a Locke-centric episode of "Lost" gave my brain a nice, trauma-induced case of amnesia, so it took a few days to remember what had pissed me off so much.

Today, it all came back to me, in increasingly hurtful stages.

First, I remembered promos for "Deal or No Deal." Thanks to the summer, this show will actually INCREASE ITS PRESENCE. (I hear as a follow-up to GW's appearance, Dick Cheney will show up to shoot the banker in the face!)

Then the memories of the flop-sweat extravaganza that is "Last Comic Standing" flooded my memory. This is a showcase for excruciating mediocrity masquerading as standup comedy that, four years ago, was getting such deservedly bad ratings that its finale results were announced during a John Goodman-voiced animated sitcom (also cancelled after six episodes). And yet, it's summertime, so the thinking is, "You assholes will watch anything, won'tcha?" And to really rub that in, it's often hosted by Jay Mohr, whose mere presence screams "There is a God, and he fucking hates you."

This gaze into the abyss was jarring enough to unlock the final bit of trauma from my brain:


This summer, I will be watching "Lost" from the beginning, season 2 of "The Sopranos," and I might just get into "Battlestar: Galactica."

I will NOT be watching NBC.

(Does anyone remember when NBC felt like the "smart" network? When it ran "The West Wing," and Tina Fey wrote "SNL" so it wasn't absolutely horrible? Turn of the century NBC. Good times.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

On The Web

Taking it easy on I Speak TV this week. Waiting for the seasons to wind down before delivering final marks on Lost, House, How I Met Your Mother, The Office, and 30 Rock once their finales air. (Though I believe there will be a brief reminder of those fall shows, like Heroes and Pushing Daisies...remember them?)

In the meantime, the new Summer Movie A-Go-Go series begins over at sister-site Future Blues, with a review of Iron Man.

And Threat Quality Press opens its doors this week, where quality writing will be afoot. I'll be posting new essays every Thursday. New short fiction will be available from one of our writers every Friday, too.


Future Blues


Threat Quality