What You Won’t See on CNN…

“Here’s what you won’t see on CNN” is my new least favorite phrase. I definitely won’t see it on CNN because I don’t watch any of the 24 hour news networks. Their primary job isn’t to inform me, provide clarity of nuanced issues or situations, or to enlighten mankind about the problems we collectively face.

Their entire purpose is to make money. To do that, they need eyeballs. To get eyeballs, they have to turn every situation into an event. And every “event” has to have good guys and bad guys and has to have an “angle”. And that angle has to be clear enough so even the most mouth-breathing of viewers can understand it in less than 30 seconds between commercials and know who to root for.\
The problem is that nothing that happens is black and white and there are rarely easily identifiable bad guys, just people acting in their own best interest (or what they think is their best interest).

All of the coverage, all of the commentary, all of the fancy graphics, all of the “breaking news”, it’s all there to get your adrenaline pumping and to keep your eye glued to the screen and so you’ll stick around through the commercials.\
So, don’t fall for it. Don’t watch the news. Read the news. Read commentary on the news. Read real journalists who do real research and provide perspective and expose nuance.

Stop helping them treat tragedy as entertainment. Stop participating the outrage cycle. Understand that every source of information has a point of view. It doesn’t make them wrong or right, but it affects how they view and report on things. Don’t trust all first person accounts. Be cautious about joining a movement until you understand the motivations of those involved.

There are better things we can be doing with our time than speaking like pundits on the TV or radio. We could be helping.\
I’m not sure how to help with a lot of the things going on in the world (and in my city) right now, but I can at least not add fuel to an already out of control fire.

Right Up My Crime-Infested Alley

Grantland has created a tournament to see who the best character was on The Wire. Since I’ve now watched the show all the way through three times now, here are my picks for the final four.

I’ve got a problem right off with Ziggy Sobotka going up against Omar in round one. I love Ziggy, but he’s got no chance against Omar.

  • West Baltimore: Omar Little – No doubt.

  • Hamsterdam: Jimmy McNulty – Clay Davis would win if it was for “most quotable”.

  • The Ports: Bunny Colvin – This one was really close between Bunny and Tommy Carcetti, but I think Bunny is the better character.

  • East Baltimore: Lester Freamon – I know people love Stringer, but Lester is deep, complex and a perfect foil to McNulty.

And your picks?

My Favorite British Shows on Netflix

I’ve been a Netflix customer for only a few months, but I’m already in love with all the foreign films and documentaries I can get. The best part, though, has to be all the British TV shows! Because someone asked on Twitter last night, here’s a list of my favorite British stuff on Netflix right now:

  • Luther – One of the best psychological thrillers and cop shows I’ve seen in a long time. Idris Elba is fantastic as John Luther, and the rest of the cast is superb. I can’t recommend this one highly enough. Fantastic show.
  • Doctor Who – If you’ve missed the Doctor Who revival of the last six years, what’s wrong with you?! This show is aces. It walks a fine line between serious sci-fi, camp, satire and horror. The great thing about Doctor Who is that it can do pretty much every genre and still be OK for kids (I tell mine that the Doctor always wins and that seems to get them through all the scary stuff).
  • Top Gear – Again, how have you missed this? Don’t be afraid that it’s a car show – it’s basically the Three Stooges with insanely expensive toys. It’s one of the funniest shows ever produced, and there’s a reason it’s one of the most popular shows in the world.
  • The IT Crowd – One of the funniest sitcoms ever, and one of the geekiest. Really, just watch it.
  • Downton Abbey – Kind of an Upstairs Downstairs thing, and a little soapy in spots, but the acting and writing are spectacular, especially the servants.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look – Seriously funny sketch show – smart too.

I’ve got to get to work now, but that should keep you busy. I know I’ve missed a bunch, and some of my favorite UK shows aren’t on yet (Misfits is one of my favorites – think Skins with super powers), but keep an eye out.

I’d love to hear about new stuff if there are things I’m missing!

My Kids Are Ruining It!

We signed up for Netflix recently, and I love it. I’m not sure why I held out for so long… Anyways, the boys have fallen in love with it too and are now ruining my recommendations by watching nothing but Mythbusters and Mystery Science Theater 3000 on it. Now, whenever I log in, the “Top Picks” list is all Jamie and Adam or Tom Servo and Crow staring at me. No documentaries or alternative standup. Nope.

(Max, if you’re reading this, I’m kidding. I just think it’s funny.)

It reminds me of the Tivo Thinks I Want WHAT?! episode. When Tivo first launched, there was an option to fill up the empty space with stuff it thinks you’ll like based on your recording and viewing preferences. Max was two or three at the time, and into Blue’s Clues big time. We were into The Sopranos, Oz and The Wire. So, what did Tivo think would make us happy? The Price is Right and a bunch of old game shows from the 80’s.

Collaborative filtering is great and all, but when it goes wrong, it goes really wrong.

The Good Wife

No, I’m not talking about me. I am talking about the show on CBS. It’s a great show and you should check it out.\
CBS got booed by An Important Gay Group for its lack of gays, so like magic CBS added one to The Good Wife, even though there was already a lesbian (bisexual?) on the show. Guess she doesn’t count. But kudos to The Good Wife’s writers as they took a mandated, shoe-horned character and made a fantastic, non-cliched episode. Run, run, run to watch it! And bow down to Alan Cummings! And Mr. Big. And how interesting was it to see a whole different side to Alicia?

Last year I talked my in-laws into watching, yay! I described it as a feel-good, lawyery show where the main character is always on the right side. Kevin said that description made him NOT want to watch it. He’s missing out! Of course as soon as I said that, the show shook things up some, lol. Lots of great actors, interesting cases (and I was wicked burnt out on law dramas before this show), an intriguing on-going plot, and Josh Charles!!! Start from the beginning if you’re new.

This season there’s a push-push between old-time fave Kalinda and new guy Jason Street (from Friday Night Lights). I wonder if he and Logan Huntzberger bonded over macing on Derek Jeter’s (one-time?) girlfriend on FNL. Hollywood is very small apparently and there are only ten actors in all. Who knew?

The Event, part 2

Both Tony Kornheiser, who is my favorite faux-curmudgeon, and a real-life friend said how great The Event was, so I decided to check out the second episode.

Things I learned from the previouslies and Kevin, proving that I didn’t pay attention well to the pilot:\
Aliens! The big secret is aliens. Except, if the show told us that in the pilot, obviously that is not the big secret. What is bigger than aliens? I am annoyed at the show for presuming there is anything bigger than aliens.

The mean grandmother was killed immediately following the kidnapping of her granddaughter. The lesson here is don’t be mean to children in your care or you will be shot by terrorists. True story.\
Here are my random thoughts of the second episode:

The show continued with its assery of “13 months previous,” “4 days previous,” and “5 years previous.” Ugh! Who cares about when Joan of Arcadia‘s brother met his girlfriend when she is currently being held prisoner?? Get on with the freaking story! I know the back story supposed to endear us the characters and make us sympathize with their potential loss, but I am pretty sure I could’ve done that anyway since I am a real live human being.

Vampire Sheriff is actually a bad guy here. Given that he is playing a politician, that should have been immediately apparent.

Another of the bad guys is played by a tv-version of Megan Fox, without the thumb issues. This woman is way too hot to be on tv. TV is for attractive people but not the super hot. She has quite the tv resume though. I mostly know her as Sam’s first love interest, besides Dean of course (yes, I totally just went there. Rim-shot!) and various CSI’s. She was also on Summerland a million years ago where her character hooked up with pre-Bieber (who later dated Ruby 1.0 in real life! Let’s play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon!). Have I mentioned how she is too good looking for tv? Somebody should get her some movie scripts. Maybe she looks too much like Megan Fox though; the public would suddenly wonder when Megan learned to act. Looks aside, I totally fastforwarded through her scenes cuz they were all, “blah, blah, I’m pretending to be your friend” and “blah, blah, do what I say or I’ll pull your hair harder.”

Interestingly, douche #1, the guy with a cast who wouldn’t save his drowning girlfriend because the dr told him not to get his cast wet, wasn’t a “bad” bad guy, but just a douchey, cheating, run-of-the-mill creep. Seriously, it was the most interesting two minutes of the whole show so far. He ended up being stabbed to death. The lesson here, of course, is don’t be a creepy, cheater-dude or the terrorists will gut you like a fish.

Guess who else is on the show? Mr Toe Pick! I don’t really have anything to say about him since I fastforwarded through most of his scenes too. He mostly just looked menacing and acted out really obvious scenes, like threatening the girlfriend’s life so the pilot dad would be coerced into attempting to crash into the special building where the President was. I am sure I didn’t miss much. I admit to squealing when I first saw him though.

Plotwise not much happened. Joan of Arcadia’s brother ran from the plane that didn’t crash into the president but somehow ended up in a desert where it had a hard landing. All of the passengers were killed by the government, to cover-up whatever the giant white light was.

Aaaaaand, I can’t care enough to talk about this anymore, though there was an annoying scene where Joan of Arcadia’s brother woke up in a hospital and asked to speak to the police, but the nurse, who is another pretty recognizable actress, kept repeating “calm down, sir.” How hard would it to have been to say, “Ok, I will see what I can do about that”?

Have I sufficiently explained how bad this show is, how bad the editing is, how bad the writing is, but has an exceptionally well-recognizable cast?

The Event recap, Jen-style

I forced myself to watch The Event, Mondays on NBC, because Kevin said it might have potential. We tried watching it a few days ago, but the time-line jumpiness was annoying me so much I couldn’t stand to watch it. The episode should be recut in chronological order, like someone did with Memento. It’s not that I couldn’t follow along, it’s that I didn’t want to. Kevin thinks shows employ this cliche when the storyline isn’t strong enough to hold up to traditional storytelling. In this case, he’s right! He suffered from severe insomnia one night (too much Dexter) and ended up finishing the pilot.

Here is what happened, without the “8 days before” “23 minutes before” “2 days before” stuff. Beware of spoilers, duh.\
Joan of Arcadia‘s older, wheelchair-bound brother, also known as the cute teacher who macked on Lorelai Gilmore on Parenthood, takes his girlfriend on a cruise. She is kidnapped, and all traces of their stuff and information is erased, her cell phone disconnected. Security is set to hold him for something (probably on suspicion of being a stow-away), but he runs away from them. He ends up on an airplane and tries to force his way into the cockpit. He is stopped by an air marshal.\
An attractive Asian man who isn’t John Cho meets with Kerry, the polio-surviving, lesbian, doctor from ER, and they talk about stuff that I don’t recall. Later, attractive Asian man tries to prevent the plane holding the boyfriend from taking off, but he isn’t successful.

The President of the United States, played by Blair Underwood, who hasn’t made enough of a splash as a single character for me to refer to him as anything other than his given name, meets with some advisers and demands to be taken to some secret, special place. The advisers try to talk him out of going, to no avail.

Meanwhile, the girlfriend’s parents, played by Luke from Gilmore Girls (think he and Joan of Arcadia brother bonded off-screen about smooching Lauren Graham on-screen?) and some lady I recognize but don’t know from where, are taking care of the girlfriend’s daughter from a previous relationship while the girlfriend is on the cruise. The child is also kidnapped, through no fault of the grandmother though she was really mean to the girl. This forces the grandfather, who happens to be an airline pilot, to hijack an airplane, and apparently kill the other pilot, to try to crash the plane into the secret, special building where the President of the United States is. This is the same airplane that the boyfriend is on. The boyfriend pleads with the girlfriend’s dad through the intercom to not “do this… We’ll find her. She wouldn’t want this.”

People at the important building notice a giant jumbo jet coming toward them and they flail around a bit. Suddenly a bright light erupts and the plane didn’t crash into the building. Kerry-from-ER, says, “They saved us.”\
The End.

I sort of want to rewatch it just to make sure my details are right, but no. That would be too much torture.

People of the Internet, read and obey

I have a tv recommendation for you: Undercover Boss at CBS.com. It’s a reality show about the head of a major corporation doing entry-level work for a week. The episode I saw about Waste Management almost made me cry. It’s shmaltzy and uplifting in the best way. I also saw the Hooters episode. It was fine, but I suggest watching the Waste Management episode instead. Run, don’t walk, to watch this show!

TV Talk: Bitter-making moments

The Emmys were last night and none of my favorites won, booo. Instead of moping about what should have been, let’s talk about other times I felt like throwing a shoe at my tv, ok? OK!\
10. Virtuality– This was a great pilot about astronauts in space, similar to ABC’s seemingly canceled Defying Gravity but so much better. It was written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Peter Berg. That alone should have guaranteed a pick-up. But Fox passed on it, blowing a chance at having both a successful and critically acclaimed show on its network.\
9. Smallville– The first couple of seasons were entertaining enough, but the show never lived up to its potential, which I found extremely frustrating.\
8. Dr Who– Nine leaving broke my heart and I have never forgiven the show for it, even though Ten completely won me over within minutes of his first episode.\
7. Veronica Mars– Everything after S1 left me unsatisfied. The S1 finale was so great and contained a wealth of material for a follow-up mystery, yet S2 and S3 were mostly meh. Well, it was still better than most of the stuff on tv, but not as good as it should have been.\
6. Alien Nation– The show ended in a classic cliff-hanger as a bomb was delivered to the Francisco home. Fast forward a few years to the made-for-tv movie where the bomb was never addressed. Come on! Reward your loyal viewers. A throw-away line would have sufficed.\
5. Jay Leno on Prime Time. I can’t even stand all of the reality programs that have sneaked into the lineup. NBC giving up three to four hours of scripted tv (depending on how many Datelines it airs) just irritates me.\
4. Beverly Hills, 90210– Brandon and Kelly call off the wedding moments before it is due to start. I get that Jason Priestly wanted off the show, so of course they couldn’t get married. However, it’s the given reason with which I have a problem. They decided to not get married after Steve talked about how “all of life’s mysteries are over,” that their lives were forever planned out and nothing unexpected would ever happen again. Steve then made some lame-ass remark about having a one-night stand later while Brandon would be stuck with the same woman for the rest of his life. UGH. Only someone never married [for love] would ever utter such complete nonsense.\
3. Twin Peaks– The revelation of who killed Laura Palmer. It’s clear the writers didn’t have a clue who the culprit was and were just making things up as they went along. While the journey was fun, the resolution left me completely unsatisfied.\
2. Queer As Folk:US– This is one of my favorite shows of all time. It is campy, gripping, soapy, poignant, funny, topical, moving. (Seriously, you try watching Ted check in to rehab without crying.) I want to recommend the show to everyone I know. On second thought, scratch that, since I only know family members and this isn’t a show to watch with your family. But you, you all in land of the internet, should totally check out the show. The show grabbed my attention when the three guys started singing, “I love the night life” and I was hooked a few minutes later when one of the guys complimented a drag queen on her outfit, “Not everyone can wear tangerine.” Ha. I love the editing and the music and the acting. The show is flawed, sometimes tries too hard, preaches too much, but it is just so damn entertaining I don’t care about any of that. The great thing about watching the show on DVDs is the lack of hiatus and no waiting months for resolutions after cliff-hangers! But this list now is about moments that made me bitter, so I’ll stop praising the show and get to the point. The ending of QAF definitely deserves to be on this list. The finale seemed rushed, important developments were glossed over, characters became OOC (out of character), and most egregious: the lead character’s entire arc was sacrificed for some ideal about queer culture. Or something. I still don’t fully understand the reasoning behind it, I just know that I thought it was a cheap choice. (But even still, this show is in my top three favorites of all time!)\
1. Gilmore Girls– Lane’s “good” behavior results in bad sex. Lane was the the nerdy/quirky/cool girl who rebelled against everything her mother taught her except the belief of abstaining from sex before marriage. She gets married and finally gets to be part of Sex-Is-Great Club only to have horrible sex once on her honeymoon; it’s so bad she doesn’t want to do it again. She accuses Rory of purposefully lying about the pleasure involved. Later Lane finds out that her one time resulted in a pregnancy. With twins. Without ever getting to experience the good part. WTH? Nice message there, writers.\
Hey, internet: What are some tv moments that left you feeling bitter?\
Next time on TV Talk: Does an unhappy and/or unsatisfying ending ruin the whole viewing experience? (Think Sopranos, Quantum Leap, Angel, Seinfeld.)

Save Chuck!

A campaign to save a tv show that actually might work.\
I am not going to link sources. If you really care, google it and I’m sure a dozen will pop up.\
The season finale for Chuck is on Monday on NBC. Kevin, my awesome husband of 11 years and no, you cannot have him, really likes Chuck. It’s smart, funny, and heartwarming. But Chuck is in danger of cancellation. The solution? Prove that people are watching! The idea has been proposed that fans buy a footlong sub on Monday from Subway, a major sponsor of the show, before the episode and then gnosh out while watching. (This is so much better than sending in bottles of hot sauce (Roswell), yes?) When Subway sales go up for Monday, The Powers That Be will have their proof. Money talks, so what are you saying? Spread the word!\
Whether you watch Chuck on tv, tivo, nbc.com, Hulu, or some other means, make sure you buy a footlong sub on Monday from Subway. Or just buy a footlong sub on Monday from Subway because they are yummy and this is a neat experiment!\
I think I am going to get a turkey, tomato, and lettuce on wheat with green pepper, for a fresh crunchy kick, sprinkled lightly with salt and pepper and a bit of mayo. What are you going to get?