‘Survivor: Nicaragua’: “Sorry I smushed the bananas.”

30 09 2010

Maybe I’m an optimistic sucker, but I truly believed Coach Jimmy Johnson when he said he was there for the experience and not the money. This week at Tribal, I became even more convinced. He didn’t fight to stay, didn’t ruffle any feathers, spoke with honesty, and was sent packing because Marty and Jimmy T. are egotistical and insecure. I’d never claim to be a Jimmy Johnson fan outside of reality TV. I’m a Patriots girl through and through. But he brought heart, humility, confidence, and peace to Espada, and I was sorry to see him go. The heartbreaking part is if he had just fought, just talked to his fishing buddies and Tyrone, he could have easily gotten the votes to send Dan—who is useless—home. But he didn’t, and he’s gone. No wonder the editing was so Jimmy-heavy for the first couple of episodes; the producers knew he was leaving and wanted to get as much celebrity on our screens as possible! I never thought I’d feel sorry for a guy who coached the Dolphins and the Cowboys, but I did last night.

There’s really no one to root for on Espada, but I find myself hoping they’ll pull through anyway since La Flor is so much worse.. I like Jane and Jill, but they need to amp it up, not defer to Marty, and make decisions for themselves. Marty and Jimmy T. drive me nuts. Tyrone is okay, but he’s too soft-spoken. I wish Dan had never been cast—how did he even pass the physical?

I’m not sure if Marty telling the tribe about the Hidden Immunity Idol was a good move. I hope it will work against him somehow, because I don’t like his ego or his lack of humor. Can people steal the Idol? If someone swiped it and used it for themselves (preferably to send Marty home!), that’d be great. But I don’t even know if that’s allowed. No one’s done it yet, even when they’ve found an Idol in a person’s bag.

The only people I like on La Flor—Kelly B. and Fabio (Jud)—are on the smaller alliance. I really hope Naonka, who I may actually dislike more than Russell (shocker!), starts to alienate some of her alliance with her attitude and behavior. Knocking Kelly B. down to get a clue to the Hidden Immunity Idol (which the dummy couldn’t even decipher) was downright reprehensible. I don’t like having her horrible attitude in my living room once a week. It legit makes me upset. And her apology about ruining the bananas, with no mention of the fact that she shoved a disabled person to the ground, just made it worse. If I had a child going to the school or YMCA where she’s a PE teacher/coach, I would pull him or her out of the class or program immediately.

I also found out by reading Dalton’s EW recap that Benry used to be a Girls Gone Wild cameraman, which makes me hate him even though he’s had very little airtime. Girls Gone Wild cameramen get DVD footage by convincing college girls to take their shirts off when they’re not sober enough to make good decisions. It’s a morally bankrupt job, and Benry seems proud of it. I cringe when my boyfriend wears a Girls Gone Wild t-shirt around the house, and he even got it for free.

I’m annoyed with Jeff Probst for constantly referring to them as “older tribe” and “younger tribe.” You gave them tribe names, damnit. Use them. The Medallion of Power is still my least favorite addition to this season, but the harder Hidden Immunity Idol clues are awesome.

I’m concerned about not having enough good people to root for this season. It seems that everyone I like is either teamed up with the bad guys or on the outs in their own tribe, unlikely to last long. I’ll keep watching—I always do—but I really enjoy liking people on Survivor, even if they don’t win (and they often don’t). But it’s only episode three. There’s still time for this season to improve, and for some of the folks to grow on me. Except for Benry and Naonka. They’re in the Jess doghouse for however long they stay on the show.


Sorry, Showtime fans. Here are your ‘Weeds’ and ‘Dexter’ posts.

29 09 2010

Things have been a little crazy lately at home and school, and with family (just, you know, my whole life), so my TV-watching has taken a bit of a backseat. It just means I might not be as timely (or as lengthy!) as you’ve come to expect. Just stick with me until May, when I finish grad school—it should get better then.

Dexter premiered on Sunday. Last season’s finale left me with my mouth hanging open, as I’m sure you can understand, so the premiere was a welcome diversion from real life. I thought for most of the hour that Dexter might actually leave Miami and start a new life elsewhere, and it was really touching to see his surprisingly emotional reaction to Rita’s death. I’m becoming more and more convinced that our favorite sociopath/serial killer is growing a heart, even if it is still three sizes too small.

I'll miss Rita and scenes like this one.

When he murdered that creep in the dingy bathroom, I thought it was all over. Surely, without the plastic drop cloth and rubber gloves, there’s some evidence floating around somewhere. But based on the season preview, the danger lies in Quinn discovering that Dexter was pretending to be Kyle. I’m curious to see if they come back to the murder, because if not, I’ll cry “loose thread”! (You know, kind of like crying wolf….) And Quinn and Deb’s sexy grief therapy—not sure about that, but it’s fun.

In any case, I’m glad Dexter stuck around. A whole new cast would be kind of hard to get used to at this point!

In sharp contrast, Weeds disappointed me again this week. I was all set for a few weeks of a terrified Nancy, Esteban showing up, possibly a dead or injured child—but no. A crossbow to the leg, some scary Shane eyes, and spitballs took care of everything, and now Nancy and the kids (Andy and Doug included) are back on the run. I did like Nancy’s lioness speech at the end, but the preview for next week looks boring except for the fact that the cops/Child Protective Services/whatever are now looking for the Botwins/Newmans, too. I mean, I love amusement park rides, but I can go to the park myself. I want drama! Terror! Danger! And this season is just not delivering.

I’ll continue to watch, because this show’s first few seasons cemented it in my mind as one of the Greatest Shows Ever. But I’m not particularly happy with the boring that is this season; aside from some hilarious one-liners, I remain relatively unimpressed.

Just a note: Only THREE MORE DAYS to submit your entry to the Sookie Book Limerick Contest!

Guest Blogger Eric Gray on the ‘Shit My Dad Says’ premiere

25 09 2010

So, advance reviews were negative and the previews CBS ran made the show look “eh,” but still we sat down and tried the premiere of Shit My Dad Says. I’m refusing to type it out as “$#*!” or “[Bleep]” because doing so is stupid, and also because the unnecessary censoring kills any humor that could possibly be lurking in this sad, sad sitcom disaster.

The premise itself is promising. Shit My Dad Says on Twitter is a viral phenomenon, and often laugh-out-loud funny. I’m a big fan, which is why I was hopeful about the jump to prime time. Also, the casting didn’t sound bad; we got William “The Shat” Shatner as the gruff, no-holds-barred, blunt-as-a-sledgehammer dad. We hoped that having The Shat deliver those highly offensive nuggets of wisdom might constitute a hilarious recipe for success, but the show itself is a tragic failure. Here’s why:

1. Utterly neutered for prime time. The Twitter feed is HIGHLY offensive in just about every way imaginable. Those pearls of wisdom often contain copious amounts of swearing, and if they don’t, expect off-color remarks about race, sex, or religion. This is where the comedy lies. Dad is blunt to the point of excess. The social rules that govern the rest of us seem to be lost on him, so he just tells everything like it is. This would be all well and good, but when making the shift from uncensored Twitter to prime time broadcast television, you have to make concessions. The concession in this case was to eliminate the crudeness. The dad’s character on the sitcom is just as blunt, but the impact behind his words has been removed for the sake of broadcast TV. The writing takes absolutely no risks, and fails as a result. The show is rendered unfunny instantly.

2. Complete lack of chemistry. Brilliant sitcoms like The Office, 30 Rock, and Arrested Development work on the strength of the chemistry between the characters. This is apparent, even early in the shows’ runs. Shit My Dad Says has none of it. I mean absolutely none. Honestly, it wouldn’t need it so much if the writers could actually write what they wanted to instead of keeping it whitewashed to avoid fines from the FCC, but since they’re not taking risks there, they have to place overall success on the strength of the characters. No such luck, and worse, the show is working at cross-purposes. No one gives a shit about the supporting cast; the point is really to put Shatner in the driver’s seat and let him go to town. The writing prevents this from happening, so we’re left with a bunch of excruciatingly unfunny also-rans who ham it up along with a neutered Shatner (that sounds exceedingly wrong.)

3. It is all too familiar. There’s nothing new here, nothing interesting, nothing that really pushes the boundaries of comedy. The Twitter feed succeeds because it’s real, and we can all imagine ourselves wanting to say things like the dad does occasionally. I want to see that edge translated to the screen. The most promising little snippet we got was the interaction between Shatner and the DMV clerk, which had flashes of mild funniness. Otherwise, the jokes are stale, and the forced laugh track makes me groan. Oh, the set looked chintzy too, like a 21st-century take on the Golden Girls‘ house.

So, Shit My Dad Says as a sitcom fails pretty damn hard, and its kind of sad. There was brilliance in the idea of bringing that larger-than-life father character alive and building a show around him. William Shatner feels like the perfect casting choice as well. But, the result is paltry and wholly unfunny. My advice: read the Twitter feed, and buy the guy’s book. Half an hour spent there will satisfy your comedy cravings about a bazillion times more than this crapheap of a sitcom. Also, pay attention the the morals in those little new-age proverbs Dad spits out. We could all learn a little from his wisdom, regardless of the form he chooses to deliver it.

Eric Gray is a vehement critic of all things. Especially this show. When not hating on stupid sitcoms, he’s playing video games, thinking about video games, and trying to meander through his last year of grad school. Oh yeah, he’s also the boyfriend of Jess. Yes, the Jess who writes Jess Blogs TV. He thanks her for letting him be a guest blogger and hopes to return soon!

Want to write a guest blog? See how here!

‘Survivor: Nicaragua’: The Craziest Tribal Council Ever

23 09 2010

I don’t like La Flor. It’s as simple as that—as a responsible 20-something who feels pretty grown up most of the time, watching these people bicker like high schoolers makes me mad. (No offense meant to any mature high schoolers out there!) I’m so glad I’m not on that tribe, because I wouldn’t last long. I like Kelly B. a lot and if someone from that tribe makes it, I want it to be her. I also want to hear more from Purple Kelly, because she seems all right. I would never be able to put up with Naonka, though, and I consider myself a relatively patient person. Jud (Fabio) actually seems normal compared to her.

But that was one of the nuttiest Tribal Councils I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen every one). Shannon completely blew a gasket and called Chase out for his alliance/relationship with Brenda, then turned to Sash and asked him point-blank if he was gay. Shannon claims it was taken out of context and that he’s not a homophobe or sexist, but regardless, he dug himself his own grave. It’s easy to make whatever claims you want after the show has aired and you’ve had months to reflect on what you said or did, and spin it in a way that makes you sound less like a jerk. But I’ll say it right here: Shannon, I think you’re a jerk. Even if the comments were edited badly, you still let your emotions explode all over Tribal. If you’re gonna play Survivor, people, learn to keep your feelings under wraps.

I don’t really like Sash either, though, with his minorities-only alliance ideas. I understand the reasoning, but I don’t like racism (or sexism, or most -isms) in any shape or form. I’m curious to see how the alliances work out now that Shannon is gone and Chase and Brenda have been called out (and possibly targeted).

Life at Espada isn’t all puppies and rainbows, either. Holly’s a bit of a nutcase, what with the shoe-stealing and all, but who brings $1,600 shoes on Survivor anyway? And at least she came clean in the end. Coach Jimmy Johnson is showing how much of an asset his leadership skills are, too. He pulled Holly back from the edge when she wanted to quit and really set the mood for the Reward/Immunity Challenge, which helped lead Espada to victory (the Medallion of Power helped too). I hope they keep him around for awhile, even though Jimmy T. and Marty seem jealous. There don’t seem to be any strong alliances yet, but Jimmy J. is making friends with a lot of people.

And Marty found the first Hidden Immunity Idol, too—but with serious help from Jane, who figured out the clue. I’m glad that Espada found the Idol before La Flor, even though I don’t like Marty that much. I like Jane, though, and I think she’s one of the strongest older women to grace Survivor for years now. (Anyone else still miss Madd Dog? I miss Madd Dog.) I just hope she’s able to get that Idol from Marty if she needs it. He doesn’t seem too trustworthy.

I’m loving this season so far. Heroes vs. Villains was great, but two seasons of Russell was just too much. It’s awesome to see some new people, smart people, strong people, dramatic people, and a few really great people. Let’s get on with the alliances and scheming!

‘Weeds’: Nathalie and the Newmans, finally up shit’s creek

21 09 2010

Yay! Weeds is getting exciting! It’s also been picked up for a seventh season—huzzah! So, all those Mary-Louise-Parker-is-leaving-Weeds rumors can stop now, okay? Thank you, TV-verse.

At least Nancy finally set the record straight with Andy. What I took away from it is that Nancy won’t fuck Andy because (get ready for a string of awesome quotes) her vagina is a “penis flytrap,” she’s “Dr. Ke-vagian,” and a succubus, but she doesn’t want him to leave her and the kids alone. All her men wind up dead, and she likes Andy too much to have that happen. It was a sweet scene for them, in their own weird sort of way. I love both their characters so much.

Of all the big shit that happened this week, Doug’s religious experience was probably my favorite. I’m still not positive why OnStar would call Andy’s cell phone looking for Shane (except, maybe, that when Andy registered the car in Shane’s name, he gave them his own cell phone number?), but the call leading Cesar and Ignacio to Seattle saved Doug’s life, at least for now. And he’s convinced he’s God’s chosen one due to the phone call miracle, which is a better route for Doug than falling in love with illegal immigrants and masturbating with a noose around his neck. Just sayin’.

The rest of them certainly aren’t getting any help from the Lord above, though. After the cops boot the van due to a shit-ton of unpaid parking tickets tied to the stolen plates, Nancy knows they’re in trouble. Add in an altercation with her coworker Latrice (played by the actress who was Miss Jeanette in True Blood, as my boyfriend pointed out) over stolen drug money, Shane’s “mommy group” calling Child Protective Services after Andy backs out of having sex with one of them, and Silas being forced into stealing his new girlfriend’s car, and, well… Nancy’s got a lot of problems.

The biggest one I see is that Cesar and Ignacio got Shane. I want to believe that it will turn out just fine for the Botwins Newmans, but Shane is a murderer. People who kill people sometimes wind up dead themselves. My boyfriend asked, “Would they actually kill Shane?” during the preview scene where Nancy looks distraught after peering into a trunk, and I said I wasn’t sure. I don’t really think they will, but you really never know with this show.

I’m looking forward to next week. This season has finally gotten exciting. Last night was the first episode of the season where I wished Weeds aired for a full hour instead of 30 minutes. I usually have other stuff to do (a grad student’s day never ends, even at 10:30 PM!), but I would have been happy to camp out on the couch for another half an hour to see what happens to Shane.

Guest Blogger Chris Imms on ‘Ghost Hunters’ and ‘Ghost Adventures’: Geeky Ghosties vs. Frat Boy Frighteners

20 09 2010

To honor last Friday’s premiere of the new season of Ghost Adventures, guest blogger Chris Imms set out to compare two popular ghost shows. Go watch some TV that creeps you out—’tis finally Halloween season!

In 2004, at the height of TV’s reality boom, the SyFy Channel (then the less brandable SciFi Channel) aired a new reality show featuring two Roto-Rooter plumbers who, on their days off, explore haunted places looking for ghosts. The show was aptly called Ghost Hunters. Jump to 2008, when the Travel Channel was just coming into its own. The network featured food and travel shows, but it was looking for something new. Luckily, it came across a documentary featuring three 20-somethings who were finding proof of paranormal activity. After the documentary received high ratings on SyFy, a new reality show called Ghost Adventures premiered on the Travel Channel. The new season of Ghost Adventures began last Friday, so I thought it would be nice to take a look at the two shows that have corned the market in telling real ghost stories.

What started in a little shack in Warwick, Rhode Island, grew to a worldwide phenomenon that includes magazines, hotels, a clothing line, and two spin-off shows. Ghost Hunters features the adventures of Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, who created The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS for short) to try and find evidence of supernatural phenomenon. In the beginning, TAPS was based out of Jason Hawes’s backyard. The group’s use of high-tech equipment and its unique method of finding evidence set it apart from other ghost groups and made it perfect for a reality show.

The Ghost Hunters do not try to prove that ghosts exist in a place. In fact, they attempt just the opposite. Evidence is not taken at face value, but is scrutinized to determine if it could have a normal explanation using a scientific method and specialized equipment. However, as the show progressed, it became less like a reality show and more like a police procedural.

Ghost Adventures is a fast-paced show with high energy. It stars Zak Bagans, Nick Groff, and Aaron Goodwin, friends who gained fame with a 2006 documentary of the three of them trying to find supernatural activity in Nevada. The documentary’s footage of a full body apparition became Nevada state news. While Ghost Hunters is known for its scientific methods, Ghost Adventures‘s recognition comes from sensationalism. If the Hunters hear an unknown sound, scientific equipment comes out. But if the Adventurers do, unscientific curses come out. This highly excitable way of paranormal searching has earned them the name “the frat boys of the ghost world.”

Ghost Adventures feels very visceral because of the way it is shot. Ghost Hunters is filmed with at least three camera crews and sound people, but Ghost Adventures‘s sound and camera crew is just the three main guys. They are only people in these haunted places, and that adds to the fear. They know they are the only people around, so if they are not causing the sounds, what is? In Ghost Hunters, they are always checking to see who could have made the sound. When your first reaction is not fear, but instead debunking it, it dials down the scariness. When something happens in Adventures they know it is not them and that legitimately freaks them out, which freaks you out too. The problem is that they freak out a lot, which causes the cam to feel shaky. If you get motion sick, you may not want to watch this show.

Another reason I like Ghost Adventures is how they display evidence. With Ghost Hunters, three-fourths of the show features the guys collecting evidence and personal experiences at the haunted area. Then they go back review the evidence and try to match it with past experience. I find myself fast forwarding to the end of the episode because I do not like seeing the evidence twice. Ghost Adventures immediately shows you the evidence by replaying the last few moments of the experience with enhanced audio. Maybe I just don’t like waiting for paranormal gratification, but it creates a more thrilling show. When things start happening, you wait for the replay to hear or see “the good stuff.”

In the end I like and dislike both shows for completely different reasons. I like Ghost Hunters for its scientific way of ghost hunting, and how it tries to take something on the fringe of science and make it legitimate. However, I feel the process of gathering evidence is too dragged out, especially when they only have one case per episode instead of two. Sometimes I find myself flipping channels and hoping I come back to an exciting part, which usually doesn’t happen. On the other hand, I really like the unorthodox way Ghost Adventures is filmed, but the suspense sometimes turns into juvenile shouting and cursing and really detracts from the legitimacy of the evidence. In the end, I think there is room on TV for both types—one scientific show, one sensational—and I hope they continue for a very long time.

Chris Imms, a graduate of Guilford College in Greensboro, NC, majored in theatre studies. After graduating, he realized he hated technical theatre work and pursued his other loves, radio and TV. He has been in the “Newstainment” industry for the last 5 years, and has worked in morning radio and local television in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina. He is currently the producer of the Ron Smith Show, a talk opinion show which airs on weekdays from 9 AM to noon on WBAL Radio in Baltimore, MD. Chris is an avid fan of media, news, and pop culture. In fact, he claims that one of his first memories was Michael Dukakis’s failed tank stunt in 1988. He currently resides in Damascus, MD with his fiancée, Heather.

‘Survivor: Nicaragua’ Premiere: “I can’t believe I just got a pep talk from Jimmy Johnson!”

16 09 2010

First things first: Yes, Jimmy Johnson is a famous and successful NFL coach and analyst. No, that does not mean he was cast simply because of his high profile. According to Jeff Probst’s EW blog, Johnson’s tried out three times but always failed the physical before. And Johnson himself said that he’s watched “every second” of Survivor. So, while him being on the show likely benefits CBS, he’s there “for the adventure” and because he’s a true fan, not simply because Survivor loves casting celebs (although that’s true too). I do love that his appearance on Survivor corresponds with the beginning of football season, which just adds to Fall TV’s awesomeness. Between football, Fall TV, cool weather, and Halloween, Autumn really is the best season ever. We even slept without an air conditioner last night!

But let’s move on. As previously stated, the tribes are split by age this season. It seems like the younger team, La Flor, has a significant advantage over the older team, Espada, in terms of physical prowess. But La Flor also seems to be the team filled with dunderhead twenty-somethings with little leadership ability and lots of hotness. I’m really excited about Kelly B., whose prosthetic leg might cost her the game not because of her performance but because of her potential to garner “sympathy votes.” No one else over there has stuck out to me so far, except maybe Jud (aka Fabio) for his sheer lack of brain cells.

Over at Espada, Jimmy Johnson shocked me by flat-out stating that he doesn’t expect to win but instead wants to help his team move further ahead. I’m not sure if I buy the idea that Mr. Competition isn’t in it to win it, but I did like his pep talks. Jimmy T. is a blue-collar Massachusetts guy through-and-through, and I wish I liked him but so far he won’t shut up. I was very impressed with Jane, who managed to make fire without flint. She might be my favorite on that tribe so far.

I’m not sure about this “Medallion of Power” thing, which can be used at the beginning of a challenge to give one team a head start. It’s then passed to the other team, which means that La Flor will have a chance to try it once Espada caves and takes the short cut. Aside from the lame name, I think it might be useful… or just boring and stupid, like when Russell found every Hidden Immunity Idol ever. We’ll see.

Oh, Wendy. Poor, talkative, awkward Wendy. Her husband said she’d be the first to go, and he was right. But according to Dalton Ross, she eats her pets, so I’m really okay that she’s gone. That might just mean chickens and goats and stuff, but still… not sad to see her go, especially after her rant at Tribal Council.

I’m hoping for an awesome season. I want laughs, tears, and for the older tribe to kick the younger tribe’s ass. And if they don’t, I want a quick merge, because watching the older guys get decimated won’t be fun. I want better challenges than the first Immunity Challenge, which was very standard and dull. And, although I don’t like either of the teams he coached, I want Jimmy Johnson to stick around for a bit because he gives good soundbites. I’m excited by the start of this season; even the shift to Wednesdays doesn’t bother me now that I know my night classes won’t interfere with my reality TV. Woohoo Survivor! I’m always happier when it’s back.