Category Archives: Be careful what you wish for

R.I.P.I.E STYLE: GoodPie to Rodney Henry

Earlier this month, after weeks of cook-offs and focus groups and pilot pitches, the finale of Food Network Star came down to two fledgling cheftestants. One was lucky to be there, having managed to survive the competition despite flashing questionable culinary skills and failing to demonstrate adequate food authority, presenting repetitive dishes that had more style than substance, lasting from week after week almost entirely due to their charming, fun, magnetic personality, despite a marked absence of ability, professionalism and on-camera talent. And the other finalist was pie-man Rodney Henry.

More: Can you bake a pie? No. Neither can him.

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Filed under Be careful what you wish for, Century 21 Reality, Tex Wasabi's, The Sixth Taste, What? Too fabulous?

Goodbye Ann Perkins, We Hardly Knew Ye AKA What Do You Do With a Problem Like Rashida?

Three weeks ago sources revealed that Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe would be leaving Parks and Recreation midway through its upcoming sixth season. News about the impending departure of unlucky in love Ann Perkins and perfectionist City Manager Chris Traeger was expectedly met with some sadness and disappointment by devoted Parks and Rec fans. The cast of the NBC comedy has developed into one of the strongest ensembles on television, and, with the exit of The Office and 30 Rock last season, Parks and Rec is poised to be NBC’s number one workplace comedy, with the citizens of Pawnee providing the most colorful and entertaining array of recurring characters and bit parts this side of Greendale Community College. Losing two main cast members is a bit of surprise, a curious altering of a formula that seemed to be working so well. But here’s the thing: we actual welcome the change, as it will solve the show’s most glaring problem, a significant flaw that has existed since episode one: what do you do with a problem like Rashida?

More: On not keeping up with the Jones

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Saturday Night’s All Right For Leaving

Screen shot 2013-05-21 at 6.42.30 PMMuch was made last week about the departure of Saturday Night Live stalwart Bill Hader, and still more was made when word broke just before (or, perhaps, during) last Saturday night’s show that longtime cast member Fred Armisen would be joining Hader in exiting Studio 8H. Add to that the speculation that Jason Sudeikis is a part of the exodus – only a year after show centerpiece Kristen Wiig left the show – and we seem to have a full-fledged panic. Hader, Armisen and Sudeikis – who accrued twenty-eight seasons of combined service on the show – will certainly leave a gaping hole, having portrayed such vital characters as President Obama, Vice President Biden, James Carville, David Patterson, the Devil, and, of course, Stefon. How could the show possibly survive such a great loss of talent, three of their leading men, a trio of go-tos. Losing one, sure, it happens. But all three, plus the farewell of Head Writer Seth Meyers at mid-season? Won’t that just be the end of SNL?

No, no it won’t. Despite some histrionics that seem to point to the opposite sentiment, the show will persist just fine. In fact, this is the circle of life for Saturday Night Live (it’s just Saturday Night Life?). Granted, if Sudeikis does, in fact, join Hader and Armisen, then you would have a more severe than normal bloodletting, but it’s not a lethal loss. The show has always and will always subsist on the infusion of new, exciting, eager talent. This season SNL was without Kristen Wiig, who seemed to have shouldered the load for so many seasons (to the show’s detriment, in our opinion) and it went on unencumbered in her absence, bolstered by noteworthy performances by newcomers Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong, two fantastic young talents who might have not had the chance to breakout if Wiig was still around. And the show has weathered the loss of every great star during its history, with someone waiting in the wings to step up. Chevy Chase leaves after the inaugural season and Bill Murray gets the call. Farley and Sandler leave and we get Will Ferrell. Ferrell leaves but Armisen and Will Forte join the show and Amy Poehler receives more screen time. Every time SNL closes a door it opens a window, a window cracked just wide enough for a talented young sketch comedian to crawl.

And it will be the same with this loss, which should better be classified as a transition than a remaking; it’s certainly nothing as a dramatic as the turnover before Ferrell’s first season. Bobby Moynihan, who had a stellar season with his “Weekend Update” appearances as Drunk Uncle and Anthony Crispino, has already been doing much of the heavy lifting, appearing in cold opens, monologues, parodies, and Update visits, performing as straight man as well as Guy Fieri. He’s certainly more than capable of being the show’s anchor in his sixth season. Likewise of Taran Killam, whose squared-jaw good looks and Baryshnikovian dance moves make him possibly the show’s most valuable not-yet-ready-for-prime-time-player, and who is due for his breakout season. Then you have Kenan Thompson, who has only improved with age, as he shook off his All That trappings and grew into a reliable SNL presence, and Tim Robinson, who had a strong, confident debut season, and Jay Pharoah, who is an incredible mimic but still looking to find his groove, despite getting the nod to play Obama this season. Not to mention the fresh new talent they might recruit to replace the departing cast members. And add to that the terrific female players that we already discussed, and you have a dynamic, hungry, inspired cast ready to make their mark and define their era on SNL. If the show is guilty of anything over its last 38 seasons, it’s of being lazy, relying on the old standbys. With the old guard on its way out, SNL just might not have that luxury next season, and we might be better off for it.

Yes, we had to say goodbye to Stefon, and that was very, very sad. But Stefon had to move on, and so do we. Because there’s another Stefon out there. There always is. We just don’t know him yet.

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‘Survivor: Caramoan’ – It’s All About…

…timing.

Survivor Caramoan - CochranIn any season of Survivor capitalizing on the moment to strike is of paramount importance, and this has been especially relevant on Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites 2 Legit 2 Quit. Ages from now, when Survivor is long gone and young scholars pore over old texts written about a forgotten television program hosted by former President of Earth Jeff Probst, they will read the story of Caramoan, and it will be the story of Stealth ‘R’ Us, and of those who tried to fight back against the ruling alliance. For that has been the theme of the season, not so much if, but when, a group of insurgents will break apart the dominating force. As a result of poor timing, Corinne failed in her attempt at a coup, and, likewise, Malcolm overplayed his hand and tried to strike too quickly. He was successful in deposing Former Federal Agent Fillip, but, perhaps, FFAF wasn’t the head of the snake after all. He was the outspoken face of Stealth ‘R’ Us, but, in the end, he might have just been a figurehead, the Mandarin, a red herring dangled out as bait. And with Fillip gone, and the corporation starting to fray, it’s only a matter of time before someone makes a move. Could be someone outside the controlling alliance, or could be someone from within. It doesn’t really matter who it is. What matters is when.

But even though there’s a storm coming, and they’re now down to just two amigos, Reynold and Eddie are in good spirits. They won’t let the loss of Malcolm stop them from a good high five fist bump.

HighFistBump

More: Tribal Councils on Tribal Councils on Tribal Councils…

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Jumped the Snark Shorty: The Avengers’ Pandora’s Box

In last summer’s The Avengers, the Earth’s greatest heroes contend with an army of otherworldly creatures bent on our world’s destruction, alien soldiers brought to our planet through a portal opened up by supervillain Loki. The rag-tag group rallies together – despite their differences – and manages to save humanity, sending back the Chitauri fleet, capturing Loki and raking in $1.5 billion worldwide. The Avengers was nothing but an unqualified success, a culmination of years of cross-promotion Easter eggs and post-credit teasers. It changed the paradigm of what could be done with a film franchise, something that Warner Bros will no doubt try to replicate with DC’s Justice League. And with Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 on the way this year, and a captain Captain America sequel the next, the Avengers may have served to make its parts greater than the whole, making its super hero stars even more super. However, in closing that rift in space, and doing it with such fanfare, the Avengers may have opened up another Pandora’s Box of sorts, one their super powers and heroism cannot shut.

The Avengers phenomenon, for all the sequel possibilities it opened up for its core members and ancillary personnel, might have actually had an inverse effect on the rest of the Marvel cinematic universe, at least from our perspective. In The Avengers we see Nick’s Fury great vision come into focus, that one day there would be a threat large enough, menacing enough, to require some force or resistance greater than anything S.H.I.E.L.D. or any army could offer. Fury had a hunch that something fierce was coming, and played that hunch in recruiting the team – an arduous process we had seen in and around the individual films since Iron Man kicked this all off in 2008 – and when the time came that there was some truly epic evil, the Avengers would put aside their pride and egos and band together to save humanity.

But there’s an inherent paradox in all of this. If the idea of the Avengers is that they’re needed to combat Earth’s greatest foes, then how seriously should we take the villainy in, say, Iron Man 3. If what Tony Stark is facing – the Mandarin in this case – is so grave and terrible and dangerous, then wouldn’t he call in his new buddies for backup (although, we do assume that The Hulk – but not necessarily Mark Ruffalo – will make an appearance in the film)? After The Avengers the stakes just feel lowered for any non-Avengers movie. Admittedly, it’s a little less clear for Thor: The Dark World, because much of it appears to take place outside of our realm and in Thor’s home of Asgard, but the principle still rings true. If the situation is so dire wouldn’t Thor summon his team if he could? Or else, if he doesn’t need them, then the bad guy can’t be so bad, right?

Of course, you could argue that it’s all a moot point anyway. The approaching enemy forces in these films can be far more powerful and dangerous than the evil in The Avengers, but it doesn’t really matter because we know that none of our heroes will ever be vanquished in their own films. They need to survive until the next Avengers movie. And then live on for their next individual movie. And so on. And so on. And so on…until the whole thing is rebooted once again.

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Filed under Be careful what you wish for, Geekery, Shorties, The Big Screen

Watch the Throne: NBC & the Future of ‘The Tonight Show’

Jimmy Fallon Thank You NotesHere we are again, NBC looking ahead to replace Jay Leno as host of The Tonight Show with a hipper, younger host, and a hipper, younger brand. This time, in place of the loose-limbed bean pole with the shock of untamable red locks as successor, we have the shaggy-haired giggle monster and impression impresario as Tonight Show usurper. So what makes NBC think that Jimmy Fallon is the right man for the job – only three years after Conan abdicated – and, perhaps more importantly, why now?

We actually take a somewhat different view from many television critics and media pundits, who believe this is history repeating itself, with the buffoons at NBC either incapable or unwilling to learn from their mistakes. Yes, if you look at the raw data, this move perhaps makes even less sense than the promotion of Conan to the Tonight Show desk in the summer of 2009. Leno, after returning to the late night centerpiece in February 2010, has held his own, even gaining viewers while NBC’s ratings have plummeted. Fallon, only four years and nineteen days removed from his maiden voyage on Late Night, is perhaps not quite ready yet to ascend, whether that be because he needs to further polish and refine his skills, or because he has not yet established enough of a viewership to command a promotion to Johnny Carson’s old spot. Is Jimmy Fallon, who just a decade ago was the  goofball on SNL who couldn’t keep a straight face, ready to tuck in the nation’s older viewers and Slow Jam the News them to bed? And what’s to stop Jay Leno from jumping ship to another network and sticking it to NBC, a possibility  was such a concern four years ago that the Peacock gave Jay a 10pm show, an unequivocal unmitigated disaster.

As Bill Carter reports,* this seems to be all but a done deal, with relations between Jay and the network sinking to an all-time low, bitter invective being spewed on each side. Leno, we can assume, is offended by the lack of respect and credit; after all, he’s still winning his slot while the network crumbles, he’s been a good soldier and has gotten nothing but grief for it. But here’s what’s important, and what makes this different from the Conan situation: as Wired argues in their latest issue, the Nielsen Family is dead and the traditional television model is obsolete. Installing Fallon as Tonight Show host – as reports say will happen by the end of 2014 – is not as much about challenging the upstart and Fallon contemporary Jimmy Kimmel on ABC, as it is about trying a new model, attempting to break out of the box. Fallon has built up a rabid fan base with silly sketches and fun games and brilliant taped pieces, all of which have appealed to the web’s viral culture. Certainly, a popular YouTube video – even one as popular as Justin Timberlake delivering an cappella version of “SexyBack” – doesn’t goose ratings, and it doesn’t do much to affect the bottom line. However, it is indicative of Fallon’s place at the vanguard of new media, of new viewing habits, and at the changing of the guard. Will Fallon alienate some of Leno’s longtime loyal viewers, sending them to Letterman or Kimmel or maybe just to bed early? Sure. But does it really matter, in this current television climate? We’re not so sure.

Also, it’s important to remember that NBC is a moribund enterprise right now. And while that may initially lead one to think that they should keep the one thing that seems to be working, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, we think the opposite is true. So much is dysfunctional at NBC right now that it might be worth it to blow the whole thing up. When you’re routinely getting smacked around by the likes of Univision and AMC and USA (NBC’s own less glamorous, but often more successful cable cousin), why not cut off your perfectly fine nose to spite your brutally beaten face? In a television landscape where numbers mean less and less, NBC, more than any other of the big four networks needs to get creative and change the paradigm. Putting Jay on at 10pm four years ago was changing the game the other way, backward thinking in trying to keep old viewers while embracing new, trying to maximize value under the old model. Moving Fallon to the big chair is looking the other way, trying to stay head of the curve. Why be a slave to the old design, why cling to some antiquated rule that The Tonight Show needs to be in Los Angeles and why keep struggling against the Leno albatross? In a television world where late night talk shows are increasingly irrelevant, why not take a shot a true irreverence? Really, what does NBC have to lose?

Some light background reading:

Conan: Barbarian or Adventurer?

In Defense of Jay Leno/How He Might Screw This All Up AKA More Thoughts on Late Shift 2: Dave’s Revenge

The One in Which We Compare Conan O’Brien to Barack Obama

*Really, what does Bill Carter report on other than late night talk show behind-the-scenes machinations? Can we get his job if and when he retires? We don’t even mind signing a contract stipulating that we will inherit his position in five years or else be paid a steep pay or play penalty).

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On the ‘Veronica Mars’ Kickstarter: Be Careful What You Wish For, Know What You’re Buying

Veronica Mars Car CameraWe spoke briefly yesterday about the already-record breaking Veronica Mars movie Kickstarter, but that post was mostly to express our unbridled enthusiasm, our uncontrollable excitement about the possibility and then certainty of a return to Neptune. However, it would be irresponsible of us to talk about this revival, and convey our joy, without considering the very real ramifications of this money-making endeavor. The Veronica Mars movie, having already surpassed its $2 million goal by $1.3 million, has completely changed the paradigm for what a Kickstarter can be, and, certainly, raises the question of what it should be.

The obvious issue with this fundraising format is that Veronica Mars fans – you, me, Steve, Tom – are essentially not only paying for the production of the movie, and not only paying for the production of the movie so Warner Bros. doesn’t have to, but we’re paying for the production of the movie so Warner Bros. doesn’t have to and handing them the profits. There’s no backend deal here, there’s no recouping on our initial investment. We will not be entitled to any portion of the net. Meanwhile, while we pour our millions of dollars, perhaps contributing a significant portion of our incomes, spending money we really don’t have, a giant movie studio will reap the benefits. It’s easy to think – and very pragmatic to do so – that they have hundreds of millions of dollars to sink into the Harry Potter franchise, and then they have hundreds of million dollars to extract from the Harry Potter franchise, and they can’t fork over a measly two million for this little passion project? That’s not necessarily a cynical, misguided outlook. But it also doesn’t paint an accurate picture.

More: Buyer Beware…

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