Celebrate Canada Day the right way, with our neighbor to the north’s greatest teen soap opera. No, no, not Degrassi, but Fifteen. It was the show that didn’t make you think “Hmm, one day that Billy kid is going to be a star and also super good-looking,” but twenty years later Ryan Reynolds is just that (well, maybe just the latter, depending on how RIPD performs), and Fifteen remains the gold standard of Canadian melodramas in which teenagers have conversations as if they were bitter, sad, empty thirty-year-olds.
Just one of our routine check-ins to see if Jimmy Fallon and Late Night are still killing, just in case you were concerned they were getting cocky or complacent after being named The Tonight Show successors. Let’s take a look.
In 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.
Absent, or maybe just ignored, among all the words committed to The Tonight Show plan for succession has been a discussion about what will happen to The Late Show with David Letterman and its lead-out The Late Late Show. Like Jay Leno, Dave has been at this game a long, long time. Unlike Jay, Dave seems to not care about ratings (possibly because he knows he’s likely to lose), does not appear to be that concerned with being well-liked (which has worked to his advantage, and has paradoxically made him more revered) and is not in any imminent danger of being forced out by the network brass, basically been given carte blanche by CBS to stay as long as he wants and, essentially, to do what he wants. When one jump-starts a late night franchise from scratch, we guess he’s granted some amount of immunity. But, unlike Jay, Dave doesn’t have a younger, hipper, potential replacement nipping at his heels, which makes the future of The Late Show even murkier.
While Craig Ferguson has built up a small but very loyal, impassioned following, and has received rave reviews for years from critics, we don’t have the sense that he’s long for his job, or at least eying the 11:35pm slot. In that small studio (we’ve been there) in CBS Television City, without a house band or announcer, Ferguson can deliver long, meandering monologues (verging on soliloquies) straight to camera, as if the audience and the viewing public wasn’t there, and engage in extended, intimate irreverent conversations with a diverse pool of guests. The Late Late Show interviews occupy that space between the celebrity shilling meant for the masses that one can observe on most late night talk shows and the quiet, introspective, one-on-one interviews conducted without a studio audience on past programs like Tom Synder’s Late Late Show. Sometimes it feels like The Late Late Show is performed for the studio audience, and then broadcast to millions of homes as an afterthought. Which isn’t to say that Ferguson couldn’t do a more traditional, more accessible late night show if he were bumped up to the main slot, we’re just not sure he wants to. Signed through 2014, when Letterman’s current contract runs through, it feels in some ways like he’s only there as long as Dave is, his relaxed, low-key, mischievous Scottish wit a complement Dave’s acerbic bitterness.
Aaaaaaaanaaaaaaand we’re back! For Survivor’s 26th season they’ve returned to the Philippines and revisited a familiar format with Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites 2 Legit to Quit. Except, this time around, the “Favorites” aren’t necessarily favorites, or heroes, or even skilled players. They are, for the most part, memorable personalities, some remembered for as much bad as good. Whether that was a wise casting decision will be borne out over the next few months. However, before we dive into the new season, let’s take a brief look back, way back, to Survivor: Palau.
Why return to the 10th season of this long-running series, which premiered in early 2005? Because, after recently completing our second viewing of the season, we feel confident in asserting that Palau is the strongest and most entertaining entry in the Survivor pantheon. And why do we say that? Well, let us tell you, in list format:
As if trying to break his own record for sheer awesomeness (holding both the World and Olympic titles), Tom Hanks has been on a tour of hilarity the past week, turning up on GMA (well, that was more a tour of obscenity) SNL, Night of Too Many Stars (where he was the only celebrity with the integrity and temerity to eat a White Castle slider on camera) and Late Show with David Letterman(we just regret that we were deprived of this). But he saved the best for last (assuming this was the closing night of Hanxfest 2012), reaching new levels of awesomeness on last night’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. We don’t like to throw around the word perfection too often, but we feel like it’s appropriate here. Perfection:
Just a reminder, tonight is the premiere of Survivor: Philippines, AKA Survivor: The Skupin Rises. After eleven years, Mike Skupin returns to avenge his premature exit from The Outback, along with a couple other guys from other seasons that we don’t care about and we assume have no chance to win and should probably just go ahead and give it up already. We’re not normally ones for predictions (at least for the first episode), but we think it’s safe to say that the first player eliminated tonight will be fire itself, as Skupin will immediately declare war on his arch enemy. How will they cook the heaps of fish and piles of wild boar that Skupin will no doubt catch and kill with his bare hands, you ask? With Skupin’s piercing, steely gaze, of course. How will Jeff Probst snuff out voted out players’ buffs? Simple, he won’t have to. All vanquished players will offer their buffs up to Skupin as tribute, and he will wear them like pelts, trophies from the kill, a hero reborn.
There’s a tale we like to tell to novice or late-to-the-party Survivor fans. It’s a story – feels more like myth now – about a tribe called Kucha in a harsh landscape called the Outback. This is pre-Russell Hantz, pre-Boston Rob, even pre-Tom Westman. This is back in the second season of Survivor, when they had no idea that their initial success would continue nearly unabated for twenty-four seasons, that Richard Hatch and his flabby, hairy, naked figure strolling the beach in Borneo had changed the face of television forever. In season two the show was still in unknown territory, not yet a cultural institution with enough memorable moments to fill a double DVD and enough beloved (and reviled) players to field a competitive softball league. This was a long time ago. But all that time we’ve never forgotten about Michael Skupin. And never gave up hope – despite how unlikely it seemed – that he would return.
We often relate how this season featured a tribe that we found to be as formidable and as likable (save for Kimmi) as any tribe in Survivor’s prodigious history. It featured a pretty young face that we’d come to later know as Elisabeth Hasslebeck, football wife and The View co-host/conservative punching bag, then going by the surname Filarski. And while Kucha lacked the statistical dominance of Tom Westman’s Koror tribe in Palau, the team felt as strong and cohesive as any tribe, and it was getting stronger and more cohesive after each challenge and Tribal Council. There was Jeff Varner, the good-looking, drawling Tar Heel, and his partner-in-crime Alicia Calaway, who could have easily parlayed her Survivor appearance into a berth in the WWE. There was Old Man Rodger, who had formed such a sweet, good-natured, grandfather-granddaughter relationship with Elisabeth. And there was Nick Brown, the bright, young Harvard Law student. And they were all led by Michael Skupin, a midwest father whose receding hairline was more Bruce Willis than Ron Howard. Skupin served as heart and soul of the team, his intelligence and survival skills keeping Kucha focused and united at camp, his athletic ability pacing them in challenges, and his hunting prowess keeping them energized. With his guidance Kucha was poised to decimate the Ogakor Tribe, which featured such bickering, unlikable players as Jerri “the Black Widow” Manthey, arrogant chef Keith Famie, mama’s boy himbo Colby Donaldson, mama surrogate Tina Wesson, and another pretty face named Amber (yep, that Amber); it was a tribe that fell out of favor with us the moment they voted out Maralyn “Mad Dog” Hershey. Ogakor featured several future All-Stars and a couple million dollar winners, but after five tribal councils they were faltering, fractured and frustrated (Colby dousing Jerri with a bucket of water following a Reward Challenge loss, for example), and with one more Immunity Challenge defeat they were in danger of going into the merge down 6-4 to a Kucha Tribe operating with extreme confidence and bellies full of chickens and popcorn and, thanks to Mike, a pig.
And then, in the blink of an eye, it all came crashing down.
Last week dear Jumped the Snark friend Eliot Glazer co-hosted a night of trivia in Brooklyn themed around the two great female-ensemble sitcoms of the late 80s/early 90s – Golden Girls and Designing Women. In between rounds Glazer and co-host H. Alan Scott played clips from each series, highlighting not just how smart, funny and fresh the shows still are, but also how they weren’t afraid to confront taboo issues of the time, including AIDS and homosexuality. These serious, socially conscious moments reminded us of another show from that era that wasn’t afraid to push the envelope. In fact, this show seemed to make taking on controversial issues its main agenda. And that show was 21 Jump Street. Yes, it’s wildly different from those double X chromosome comedies above, and does not hold up a fraction as well (we now wonder if it even held up in its time), but, looking back, 21 Jump Street was often going out there on a limb on the nascent Fox Network, bringing uncomfortable, sensitive but relevant issues to the forefront. We’re going to make an attempt to semi-regularly feature some of these moments, starting right now.
It’s really hard to believe that we were watching this show at six-years-old, first because it’s often slow, melodramatic and pedantic (as was the style of the time), and doesn’t star any cartoon ducks, and shouldn’t hold a six-year-old’s attention, and secondly because it frequently contains a great deal of mature content, an amped up after-school special on five-hour delay (but compared to Silk Stalkings, which we began watching regularly a couple of years later, this was Green Acres. Also, good parenting, Mom). Even if an episode didn’t tackle a controversial issue of the time, it probably involved some kind of drugs and/or violence, or why else would Johnny Depp and Peter DeLuise go undercover as the McQuaid Brothers? But the show frequently went beyond fake IDs and selling “dope” in the locker room, covering such topics at bigotry, racism, bullying, child abuse, class warfare and, in one single episode, HIV-AIDS and suicide.
In that episode, “A Big Disease with a Little Name,” Officer Hanson (pre-Jack Sparrow Johnny Depp and our first man-crush) is tasked with protecting Harley, a teenager with AIDS who continues to attend his high school despite protests from local parents and the hostile atmosphere fostered by his fellow students (also, unsurprisingly, Harley has an affinity for motorcycles). Hanson isn’t afraid to sit at the same table as the kid, unlike much of the student body, but he’s not exempt from the same kind of prejudice, fear and ignorance, as we see when he declines Harley’s offer of chocolate milk.
But, as was often the case, 21 Jump Street functioned as an educational tool, teaching us there are three ways to contract HIV, and chocolate milk is not one of them. And, as also was often the case, by the end of the forty-four minutes Hanson not only learned the lesson but took it to heart.
We don’t actually remember this episode from our childhood – perhaps it didn’t get much syndication play – but we do know we weren’t afraid of a little chocolate milk. Maybe we have 21 Jump Street to thank for that.*