The Wife:

While I don’t recall ever watching the original run of Rob Thomas’ Cupid back in 1998 with Paula Marshall and Jeremy Piven, I admit that I am the kind of person who would be drawn to such a premise. I love Greco-Roman mythology and I enjoy seeing modern adaptations and spins on it, and offering my “I’m friends with a Classics professor so I totally know what I’m talking about” judgments on whether or not those adaptations succeed. (Although the CW’s Valentine, about Greek gods living in L.A., just didn’t seem to pique any level of interest in me at all. Nor in anyone else, apparently.) So being that I don’t recall ever watching Cupid in the 90s – which I realize now was probably because it was airing on Saturday nights, which just means ABC wanted it dead from the beginning and that I was also probably too busy going to sleepovers, being dared to call boys I liked and read them bedtime stories, to tune in – I figured I would give the reboot a chance.

And you know what? That show totally doesn’t suck.

The generosity accorded to Rob Thomas to reboot his formerly failed series by ABC, however, was not as generous in its feelings toward this show as I am. The original run of the series produced 15 episodes, and aired 14. This run was only 7 episodes, intended as a try-out for fall, because that’s how television producers work these days. ABC killed a few great things this year, one of which might rhyme with “Smushing Lazies,” and I think that left viewers a little mistrustful of anything new ABC had planned to debut in the spring. In the Motherhood, while admittedly not great, was interesting simply for the fact that it was a female-led show about an issue that nearly every woman on the planet can relate to (if she isn’t currently a mommy, she certainly had one once), and had a lot of potential to grow and further explore the current parenting climate (which in the last ten years has switched to the kind of stay-at-home-and-do-everything-right-and-organic-and-be-totally-involved-and-honest-with-your-kids idea embraced by Jessica St. Claire’s character) in relationship to other models (the working mom, the cool mom who raised her kids counter to any advice and everything turned out just fine). But it never quite found its footing and so failed its try-out. Better Off Ted is lucky its quirky mcquirkfest survived. Cupid should have.

Bobby Cannavale: Right on the mark as Cupid.

Bobby Cannavale: Right on the mark as Cupid.

Why am I so gung-ho about this show? For one, I think Thomas found the right lead in Bobby Cannavale and was smart to move the show from Chicago to New York. Cannavale is good-looking in an Italian Mama’s Boy sort of way, and incredibly affable. It makes perfect sense that he would be the kind of person strangers would invite into their lives if he offered to help them, and it makes perfect sense that he’s the kind of person clever enough to manipulate social situations to facilitate his matchmaking. In short, if Bobby Cannavale asked me to fly to NYC from New Orleans to cater a party as his Trevor Pierce (renamed from the original Trevor Hale) did in one episode where he reunited a Cajun caterer with her high school Iraqi war vet sweetheart, I probably would. As for the move from Chicago to NYC, NYC is often a space that invites fantasy in many popular stories. I’ll name only one example here that should serve as the paramount one: Miracle on 54th Street. It’s a city with its own mythology and a long history of being a dreammaking place: for immigrants, for actors, dancers and musicians, for artists and also for writers. It’s also a city in which people move and mingle with others numerous times a day, but promotes the isolation of modernity in that while its denizens inhabit mutual spaces, they don’t often connect with each other. I buy it as a place a god would try to turn into matchmaking central, especially because his therapist’s single’s groups prove to be an integral part of how the show’s main and peripheral characters, and how they are all trying to break away from the isolation of modernity and connect with others. There was talk in the production process that Cupid would relocate to Los Angeles, and while Francesca Lia Block has convinced me that L.A. can be a space of magical realism, I don’t think it would have worked nearly as well as New York did.

Furthermore, I like the idea of a show that believes in the concept of true love. We live in an age where the CW exploits people’s relationship issues on national television with Hitched or Ditched, where we look at the tabloids every day to see if John & Kate are going to fall the fuck apart (uh . . . yeah, that’s probably going to happen since the couple has a very special “announcement” pending; and I hate that I don’t watch that show and know about this), and where hookups have somehow replaced dating.  We all know that the divorce rate is high, and we all know that my home state has leveraged a terrible and oppressive measure against its non-heterosexual residents that bar them from even daring to challenge that statistic with their same-sex relationships. When I look at the divorce rate and the disappearance of date culture, it seems like a good number of us have given up even trying to sustain a partnership; that we prefer to be alone, save for a brief interaction every now and again that we don’t have to put any further energy into. While I wouldn’t say that having a life partner is right for everyone, I certainly like having someone to watch TV with every day. It makes me feel like this big, giant world is less lonely. That isolation of modernity thing I was talking about? Having someone to go through life with certainly makes me feel less isolated.

So when I see so much negativity toward relationships in the reality television world and in the real actual human world, I can’t help but be smitten by a scripted show that tries to remind us of the good parts of being in a relationship with someone, and how fun it can be to take that plunge. Cupid may only be a string of meet-cutes, but it’s also about love overcoming obstacles. None of the matches Cannavale’s Cupid makes in the 7-episode run are easily procured, and, somehow, through his crazy/divine providence, he is able to unite these couples in the promise of everlasting love. I’ve already mentioned the Cajun caterer and the Iraq veteran, which came to a bittersweet ending as the vet announces that he’s getting stop-lossed and sent back for a third tour of duty, something he planned to avoid by running away to Canada and never coming back – only to change his mind and do his tour of duty, knowing that if he lived, his Cajun caterer would be worth coming home to in order to live out their days under the willow trees in their hometown in Louisiana.

But perhaps my favorite of these divine matches came in the final episode, featuring adorable Broadway ingénue Kerry Butler as a working-class masseuse from South Boston in love with a man above her station (whom she broke up with because he never let her meet his family because of her wicked pissah of an accent). Cupid’s therapist, Claire, tries to find out his origin by hiring a linguist (one of her patients, as well) to listen to him speak and determine his origins. The “using linguistics to discover Trevor’s origins” plot was recycled from the show’s first incarnation, but the My Fair Lady angle was entirely new to this version of the series. But Cupid performs a bait-and-switch, setting up Kerry Butler with illocution lessons in exchange for massages, during which she forms a friendship with the linguist over several delightful My Fair Lady-esque diction lessons. Butler’s character is almost ready to give up, and declares that it doesn’t feel right to her to hide herself just to impress a guy, at which point her linguistics tutor reveals that he, himself, has been lying for most of his life. He, too, is from South Boston, but wasn’t taken seriously on his first day at Princeton because of his accent and worked very hard to eliminate all traces of his working-class roots from his speech. After sending Kerry off to meet with her ex at a fancy, uptown party, Trevor realizes in talking to the linguist that, perhaps, he’s been guiding Miss Butler toward the wrong beau and disguises the linguist as a waiter to crash the party and tell Kerry how he feels. After making a scene in which Butler’s intended’s parents reprimand “the help” for being so clumsy, Kerry throws off the upper-class accent she’s worked so hard for and embraces who she really is, as well as the Henry Higgins who reminded her of that.

If I had one complaint about Cupid, it would be that Sarah Paulson’s Dr. Claire McCrae never quite felt real enough – and not for Paulson’s lack of trying. She’s a great actress, with a lot of range, and if you want to see how great she can be, please watch her arc as a Pinkerton on Deadwood and her completely stunning comic performance in Peyton Reed’s 1960s screwball romance send up, Down with Love, in which you will also be treated to Ewan McGregor’s delightfully Ewan McGregor-y Southern accent. Paulson never got to break through her material here, and always seemed too stiff to fit into this world, which is only justifiable in the fact that her awkwardness in the role highlighted the irony that she, single and totally uncomfortable with people, should be in charge of teaching people how to find love through commonality. I think, if the show had gotten more of a chance, Claire would have eventually felt more real as her own walls started to break down and we learned as much about her as she does about Trevor Pierce.

I’ll miss this show, and I’m sad that we live in a world that’s unaccepting of its existence. But I’ll cherish that “My Fair Massuese” episode, if only because linguists are awesome and the following line is one of the best things I’ve heard on television recently:

“Nothing says ‘Thank You’ like the phonetic alphabet on cupcakes!” – Kerry Butler

The Husband:

A few points of interest:

1.) I adore Sarah Paulson, but between this and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, she’s gaining quite a few detractors. She’s not to the point of being an absolute show-killer just yet, but her dedication to her craft, which allows her to make very interesting decisions with very intense and sometimes unlikable characters, tends to give her a bad wrap, at least on television. But I can assure you that she’s one of the most versatile actresses of her generation, including her deeply strange performance that I saw in 2005’ Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie, also starring Jessica Lange, Christian Slater and Josh Lucas.

2.) I started noticing this right around the time that Kidnapped, Six Degrees, The Black Donnellys and 3 lbs. were all canceled in the same television season, in that unless a show was a Law & Order or a CSI, any show that filmed in New York was about 90% guaranteed to be canceled. And this year, that trend came back in a big way. With no exception this year, no show that premiered in the 2008-2009 television season and was shot (not just set) in New York was renewed for another season. (And Castle doesn’t count, because it’s shot in L.A.) This would include Life on Mars, The Unusuals and now Cupid. (And last year’s Lipstick Jungle, which moved on into this year, couldn’t survive either. But hell, at least it got a second season unlike the majorly similar Cashmere Mafia.) A part of me wants to say it’s the distancing location that seems to turn many non-New York viewers off, as if these shows take place in a world far too unlike the viewers’ that it simply doesn’t pique their interest. But, more than anything, it’s the fact that it’s so goddamned expensive to shoot in NYC, so even when ratings are doing okay, the networks use the expenses as an excuse to shut down production. I’m amazed Gossip Girl got renewed for a third season, since the ratings are so abysmal, but it’s definitely a pop cultural flagship for the network, so canceling it would just make the CW lose more viewers.

A book recommendation for ANYONE who liked the Left of the Dial episode of Cupid: Rob Sheffields Love Is a Mix Tape.

A book recommendation for ANYONE who liked the "Left of the Dial" episode of Cupid: Rob Sheffield's Love Is a Mix Tape.

3.) While I loved almost every episode of this show, my favorite, simply from a dramatic perspective, was “Left of the Dial,” in which a down-on-his-luck radio deejay tracks down his favorite caller and starts a relationship with her and her two children. It was the sweetest, least negative and most realistic episode of Cupid’s altogether too short season, and it’s a shame that not enough people stuck around to even watch the episode.


The Husband:

First, a little history:

I watched the first series of Life on Mars (i.e. the British term for “season”), which amounts to eight episodes. When the second series rolled around on BBC America just over a year ago, I DVRed the entire thing, but ran into a problem – when I hit play on the first episode, all I got was a blank screen. Believing that somehow my subscription to BBC America was accidentally canceled which would result in me recording the channel but getting no actual image or sound, I deleted all the episodes. But when I hit play on an entirely different show (let’s say a G4 rerun of Cops), that was blank too, and I realized, all too late, that something was wrong with my box’s playback, and that I had deleted something that would probably never air again in this country.

Point is, my knowledge of the UK Life on Mars is limited to its first series. And let me tell you, it was brilliant. Sam Tyler, a modern-day Manchester police detective, is hit by a car and wakes up in 1973, in his same home town, just around the time he was a young boy. Taking a job at his own police precinct, he has to both figure out a way to exist in the 1970s while also trying as hard as he can to find a way back to the present.

When Life on Mars finally came to the U.S. – after David E. Kelley took an ill-advised shot at a pilot, then set in Los Angeles, then gave it over to showrunners who set it in the more-applicable Lower East Side of Manhattan – I was all set for a great show. It’s a terrific concept, and the possibilities were endless. The UK version played extremely well with old-fashioned detective work and its relation to modern-day police procedures, and came out somewhere in the middle, both parodying and paying homage to the television procedurals of yore. Sometimes a cop just had to rough up a suspect, but this barbarism was often nothing compared to some good profiling and psychological warfare.

The U.S. version, however, took a somewhat different route. While the U.S. pilot is almost beat-for-beat the UK one, it merely took that as a jumping-off point in the later episodes and became, for all intents and purposes, basically just another cop show with the time-travel twist. Unique to the American show were countless 70s jokes, ranging from Nixon humor to cracks about Soylent Green to Sam’s many aliases (Luke Skywalker, Tom Cruise, etc.), which were often met, by me, with a raised eyebrow. Humor is fine, but eliminating some of the original’s best elements in favor of some homegrown winks may not have been the best idea.

Yes, let's all question that fucking ending, shall we?

Yes, let's all question that fucking ending, shall we?

I think, if anything, I would describe the American LoM as a low-rent Scorsese knockoff (thanks, especially, to the presence of Harvey Keitel and Michael Imperioli) with the occasional moment of sheer greatness, but not enough to have made me want a second season. It took the easy way out far too often, leaving us viewers with completely average weekly detective mysteries that weren’t original 30 years ago. Other than the more serialized stories, I can only think of case off the top of my head that I found truly compelling, involving the race war that erupted after an African-American girl fell to her death off a building. That, specifically, was a damn good way of bringing modern politically correct sensibilities and common sense into a more heated, confusing time. Less effective was the early episode revolving around gay-bashing in the slums. There’s clever, and then there’s preachy.

Luckily, LoM dropped the preachy after it ended its fall season, but unfortunately some of its spirit went out the window as well. When the spring season rolled around, they had an extended episode order past the original 13, but were also warned, pretty early, that this first season would also be its last. So Sam, having finally figured out the deal with his douchebag father (which was, by the way, the final episode of the UK’s first series, and what the original Sam considered his entire purpose in “traveling through time”), Sam Tyler, and the show, moved away from the show’s sci-fi angle and focused more on policework, resulting in an enjoyable but choppy affair. This, thankfully, led to some great ensemble work, not just from the guys but from the ever-on-the-verge-of-fame Gretchen Mol, whom I’ve loved since Rounders and the vastly underrated sci-fi VR tale The Thirteenth Floor. While I love Rachelle Lefevre, I’m not sure if the role was right for her and I’m glad Gretchen replaced her in the role of No-Nuts Norris. (In fact, everybody but star Jason O’Mara was replaced after Kelley’s version.)

Other minor misgivings: I’m just going off of my knowledge of the UK’s first series, but I don’t recall Sam relying so heavily on his flash visions to solve crimes, such as in the US LoM when he realized that a man they were investigating would go on, years down the line, to murder more people, and thus Sam used this knowledge to get him before he committed the majority of his crimes. On the UK one, it was more that Sam was just a better detective with more training than his coworkers, and his skills, still unheard of in 1973, were unorthodox but extremely effective, and if you matched those skills up with Gene Hunt’s unstoppable brute force, they were a dynamite team. No Dead Zone flashes to be found, at least not to the extent of the new version.

And, of course, we have to address the completely out-of-left-field ending. While having no viewing experience with the second series of the UK LoM (or the lost-in-the-80s spin-off Ashes to Ashes, which I hear is compulsively watchable), I know that the entire show ended with Sam waking up from his coma in modern-day Manchester, but realizing he had no life there anymore, decided to kill himself, which in turn transported him back to the 1970s where he could have a great life as a renowned detective.

And why couldn’t the U.S. one have done that? Too grisly? I don’t think so. It’s a great idea, and a perfect denouement, respectful to the show’s thrust and its concept of trying to figure out where we belong and why. But nope. The U.S. version decided to lose its mind for the final five minutes, and for a great deal of people (including my wife), it dragged down the entire show, all 17 episodes of it. Turns out that it’s the year 2035, and Sam, along with all of his precinct buddies, were astronauts on a journey to Mars, and they were all in a very long cryogenic sleep. Sam had requested that his sleep program be him as a cop in 2008, except there was a glitch in the program, which would explain the time travel. In this future, in addition, Gretchen Mol is his girlfriend and Harvey Keitel is his father.


Oy. Way to shoot yourself in the foot. When I caught wind of this new ending, completely by accident as I hate spoilers, I thought somebody was fucking with me. But nope. As my wife and I finished the final episode Monday night after putting off the spring season until only two weeks ago, I knew what was coming, and it still sucked. It’s a letdown, both logically and thematically, and I wag my fingers at whoever lobbed that idea into the writers room in the first place.

But I’m also willing to let it go and recognize the quality that was the rest of the first and only season of Life on Mars: American Style. It was fun, it ended, and I had a good time watching it. I’m glad such a quirky show (at least, quirky for a while) was allowed to live its life in relative peace and not dropped after four episodes, and perhaps it could serve as a model that some American television should be designed to be a one-season affair. Then again, that’s what the awesome Taye Diggs show Day Break was supposed to be, and that was canceled before it could finish its run.

Oh well.

The Wife:

Whomever came up with that ending should identify themselves so that I may punch them in the face.

Plenty of single episodes of television shows have ended in an “it was all a dream” scenario — famously, the final episode of one of Dallas‘ later seasons features one of these revelations (which kind of undoes the entire final season of the show), as does a later episode of Rosanne — and I believe that can be used effectively for a single episode to show us an alternate version of events involving dreams, hallucinations, visions, coma-universes, parallel universes, etc. (Although, as I mentioned, I am still up in the air about its use on Bones in the season finale.) But for an entire series to be a programming glitch in an astronaut’s neurostimulation program when it could have been, oh, I don’t know, ANY OF THE MYRIAD THINGS SAM TYLER HYPOTHESIZED HE WAS EXPERIENCING is complete and total bee ess.

I’ve read that St. Elsewhere allegedly reveals itself in the series finale to have taken place entirely in the mind of an autistic child, but haven’t seen the series so I don’t really know if it would bother me as much as the ending of Life on Mars: American Style did. For one, I really don’t like knowing that the world I’ve been entertained and amused by and the conceit that brought me to the show in the first place was a mistake that’s very easily shrugged off by all of the characters after its revelation. Even the writers know that this ending is stupid because they give Michael Imperioli the following line: “Why would you choose to be a cop in 2008 for your neurostim?” Indeed. Why the fuck would someone do that? It doesn’t make sense. Being zapped back to 1973 within a computer program was nothing more than a confusing, 17-episode mistake. Way to have faith in yourself, series, because this ending completely nullifies anything interesting about the previous 16 episodes for me. The characters in the show believe it was a mistake, which seems to indicate to me some belief on the part of the writers and creators that the show’s existence at all was a mistake.

Secondly, ending the show on Mars is pretty much the most literal thing that could have happened to this series, and that’s just dumping a mound of salt and red dirt into the gaping hole left in the series’ purpose and credibility after the revelation.

That ending really did ruin the whole show for me. But if I had to pick one thing I actually liked about the ending, it would be that Sam’s clearly imaginary hippie-chick neighbor Windy who calls him “2B” (because it’s his apartment number) is the voice of the spaceship, and that the pod Sam’s been having his stupid-ass neurostim trip in is also numbered 2B.

The Wife:

The final four episodes of this season of House almost made up for Kutner’s random-ass suicide in their inventiveness. Almost. I thoroughly enjoyed the return of Amber as House’s ghostly hallucination and his three-episode quest to discern exactly what’s wrong with him, either way knowing that if he’s crazy, he can’t practice medicine, and if he’s experiencing side effects from his Vicodin addiction, he can’t practice medicine because once he’s clean he’ll be in too much pain. Anne Dudek was delightful has his subconscious manifestation throughout this arc, especially the moment in which she reappears after House thinks he has staved her off by OD’ing on insulin, singing old jazz standards over the microphone at his bar, echoing her first appearance beside his piano. But nothing, really, was more chilling than the final episode, when House realizes he’d hallucinated the entire night he spend kicking Vicodin with Cuddy, ending in the two of them sleeping together. Reliving all of the moments we saw of him flipping coins or examining a tube of lipstick are replayed with Vicodin bottles replacing those objects, suggesting a very powerful drug addiction that has completely taken over House’s life, was pretty brilliant. Frankly, I’d prefer more arcs like this, rather than so many one-off episodes. But what else are you going to do with a 24-episode season? So while everyone else attends Cameron and Chase’s wedding (they spent these past few episodes almost not getting married because a. Cameron kind of got cold feet b. House nearly killed Chase with a stripper covered in strawberry body butter . . . that apparently was made with actual strawberry extract and c. Chase was being a dick to Cameron about keeping her dead husband’s sperm on ice because he took it to mean that she thought they weren’t going to work out, rather than, you know, being the last thing she has to hold on to of her fucking husband), House checks himself in to a mental institution . . . which he will inevitably check himself out of at the beginning of next season because you can do that kind of thing with you are voluntarily committed.

I should have known this was too good to be true . . .

I should have known this was too good to be true . . .

As far as the patients were concerned, I’m often irritated by how precious the conceits are in which every patient is a metaphor for someone on the team, etc. So I totally get why the guy with split brain whose hand was not his hand was necessary for the metaphor of the finale, it was also perhaps added just a tad too much levity, despite how much Thirteen et all tried to tell me it was creepy. The only patient that really got to me out of this bunch was the ballerina who lost her skin. A lot of my research deals with holes in the surface of the body, mitigations of that surface or the abjecta beneath the surface, but I found her skinlessness to actually be quite frightening. Perhaps its because I’ve had skin cancer that I find the idea of losing that much skin so terrifying (which, for the record, makes no sense, because the removal of skin cancers just leaves some awesome scars), but its more likely the fact that, without the mitigation of the surface, the inside is all that much more frightening. We forget that our skin is the largest organ on our bodies, and so it is vital that we take care of it. Losing a little bit when you scrape your elbow or knee is fine, and hardly horrifying, but losing so much that we are exposed so wholly to the world is truly unsettling. And deadly. I shuddered for that poor girl. She’s just damn lucky that Princeton-Plainsboro has so many fresh cadavers from which to harvest grafts. I know the episode wanted us to sympathize more with the possibility that she, a dancer, would have to have her gangrenous hands and feet removed in order to live (Taub managed to revive the tissue, somehow), but the loss of her flesh was something I couldn’t get out of my head. And I doubt I will.

So, damn you, House, you actually got me. Good for you.

Considering how poorly I did at keeping up with House this year, I don’t think I’ll write about it next year. I’ll still be watching, though, storing up dozens of episodes on my DVR to marathon whenever I get a break from my book learnin’.

The Husband:

And so the month of season finales involving hallucinations continue, and between this, Bones, and Grey’s Anatomy, I wonder what else have I not come across? I know how the US version of Life on Mars ends (but since neither my wife nor I have finished watching the second half of the season, I’ll refrain from saying what it is), but what about the shows I’m behind on?

Smallville, of course, always has at least a couple hallucination episodes a season – and more now that they’ve been struggling to find stories in Metropolis, a task that doesn’t actually sound very hard – but will Prison Break get all wonky during its final five-episode run that’s sitting on my DVR? (Michael does have major brain shenanigans last time I checked, so this has potential.)

Does Lie to Me, which we’ve DVRed but haven’t touched yet, turn everything on its head by revealing that Tim Roth is just a figment of our imagination? (Considering he’s been both a futuristic ape and Abomination in The Incredible Hulk, this could be a possibility.)

Is Reaper going to turn out to be an extremely vivid dream concocted by Sock during a very long nap at the Work Bench? Will that explain Andi losing her personality this season?

Is that missing episode of Sit Down, Shut Up an apology to the idiots who didn’t find it funny and complained about the intentionally awkward animation-on-top-of-real-backgrounds?

Motherfucker! Ugly Betty ended in a hallucination, too! What happened here? Is this a veiled backlash against Obama? Did all the showrunners stop taking their medication?

The only time I can remember even the slightest bit of consistency across certain shows during season finales was May, 1996 (I had to check Wikipedia for the year, but remember everything else about the following without any aid.) For some reason, three major shows in my life decided to kind of lose their minds and go way too dark for my young teenage brain. With Seinfeld, it was Susan, George’s fiancée, dying as a result of toxic envelope glue, and when the main cast stopped by the hospital, they pretty much felt nothing and went to go get some coffee. On Roseanne, Dan breaks his diet and he and Roseanne get into one of the foulest shouting matches I’ve ever seen on a family sitcom, devolving into back-and-forth screams of “Fatty! Fatty! Fatty!” (Let’s not even mention the final season, which was all a dream.) And, finally, Mad About You challenged Paul and Jamie’s marriage when she kissed the man she was campaigning for and Paul lusted after another woman but didn’t do anything, leading to a quiet, disturbing fight.

It just seemed like, for no discernable reason, sitcoms ended that year wanting us to feel like absolute shit. So I ask, does anybody have an explanation for this madness in dear old 2009?

Don’t get me wrong, I thought everything with Dudek was some of the most compelling minutes House has ever had, and even without her, the final mindfuck, while hard to avoid in the press after the fact, was still eerily effective, thanks in no small part to Hugh Laurie’s continued brilliance on this show. Does he still not have an Emmy? (Now that Boston Legal is gone, Spader’s absence in the category will help considerably. That is, if Jon Hamm’s John Ham doesn’t take it, which would not be a bad thing per se.)

On another note, do any of you out there seriously care about Chase and Cameron? At all? Boooooooring. How about hiring another intern. I’m fine with that. Anything to get away from the dour blondes.

My Name Is Earl 4.19 “Chaz Dalton Space Academy”

I could tell you that this nice and sweet but ultimately static episode of My Name Is Earl was set around a local Space Academy, one that Earl and Randy once patronized as children until Earl got a hold of a space hero’s spacesuit and accidentally shrunk it in the dryer. I could tell you that when he goes back to the Space Academy to make up for his wrongdoing, he finds out that the man he thought was Chaz Dalton, the famous astronaut, was a fake named Wayne. I could tell you that he tracks down the real Chaz (Curtis Armstrong from Revenge Of The Nerds and American Dad), only to find that he’s a drunk and only went to space because his father had a lot of money, and that he ruined the mission he was on with all of his phobias and anxieties and forced them all to come home when he threatened to kill himself. And I could tell you that Earl realizes that continuing to perpetuate the fraud that handsome, non-drunk Wayne is actually Chaz Dalton, is the best thing for the impressionable children of Camden, which in turn inspires the real Chaz to shape up, set to the second use in one week to the tune of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” (the other being Life On Mars).

I think its gonna be a long, long time.

I think it's gonna be a long, long time.

But, honestly, I just wanted an excuse to post the opening credits to the 1977 television cheese fest known as Space Academy, a fifteen-episode Saturday morning kid’s show that I watched on DVD a couple months back. Enjoy.

Okay, I can at least give you some good quotes from this episode:

  • “Earl, why are you so gay for space?” – Joy
  • “Nobody likes a black nerd, Darnell.” – Joy
  • “I can’t believe you did that. You put the ‘ass’ in ‘astronaut.’” – Earl

The Office 5.16 “Blood Drive”

I’m not usually one to say this, but I’ve become very worried about the show’s handling of Jim and Pam. Yes, they’ve continued to be treated like a real-life couple, with relatable sweetness, half-assed cutesy bickering and uncomfortably familiar growing pains (with Jim buying his parents’ house being a particularly awkward moment), but the actual stories they’ve been given in any number of episodes have been almost completely worthless. This week, they were shunned from the office of Dunder Mifflin – as Michael was throwing a Valentine’s Day singles mixer in order to find the cute girl he met during the blood drive, only to lose her when he passed out from lack of blood flow – and instead headed out to have a long lunch with Phyllis and Bob Vance, where they talked about absolutely nothing that could advance the plot, and then waited and stared at their food while Phyllis and Bob Vance banged one out in the restaurant’s handicap bathroom.

That’s it. That was their entire story. Jim, the true hero of The Office, has been relegated with Pam to be merely the show’s romantic relief in episodes such as these, and it just seems wasteful. I know that they will be setting a date soon, and that date will not come around until next season allegedly, and that throwing yet another man in the mix (much like Roy and that Mad Men fellow back at the arts college) would seem unrealistic, but can the writers at least give me something? I’d rather Jim and Pam not even be in the episode than given something like the restaurant sequence, which was unfunny and pointless.

Okay, Michael’s story was kind of nice, because even though he never ended up finding the blood drive girl, his concept of romance has matured ever since Holly first came into his life. We’re gearing up for a very good season finale with his story, methinks.

Some other funny stuff:

  • “It’s so sexy, it becomes hostile.” – Dwight to Jim
  • “I can retract my penis up into itself.” – Dwight
  • Turns out Angela has had another set of men duel over her. I guess it’s just a thing.
  • “You’re not allowing natural selection to do its work, like the guy who invented the seatbelt.” – Dwight on the concept of a singles mixer
  • Creed stealing blood during the outro, which garnered the episode’s biggest laugh.

The Wife:

Kath & Kim 1.17 “Bachelorette”

As the end of Kath & Kim draws near – and it will end next week with, I’m sure, Kath and Phil’s wedding spec-tack-ular – Kim does something sort of selfless and throws her mom a bachelorette party, only to end up missing their intended Cher concert altogether when Athena Scooberman makes the attendees do shots of some tea laced with hallucinogens. The good news? Kath totally doesn’t know she missed the concert, especially when the ladies see a Cher drag queen at their favorite gay bar later in the night. Oddly, not even Melissa Rauch and Maya Rudolph could make the scenes of the women tripping balls in a limo/pet store funny. Too bad.

With the girls gone, Craig and Derek attend Phil’s bachelor party and are shocked to find that Phil and his friends have an idea of fun that consists of playing “name that ingredient” and talking about cheese and expensive wines, which furthers Derek’s hypothesis that Phil is gay. Granted, Phil’s bachelor party is all kinds of lame as far as bachelor parties are concerned, and his friends are indeed very tame and reserved people, but, clearly, ya’ll, liking wine and food that comes from a place other than a drive-thru does not make a man gay. Nonetheless, this line was hilarious:

“Tarragon, you mysterious bitch.” – Phil

Derek tells Phil that he thinks he’s gay and offers to purchase a stripper for the evening to liven up the party. When she arrives, Phil and his friends are not so keen to see her strip without getting to know her first, so, instead, they spend the entire hour chatting with her, offering her dinner and sending her off to her next engagement with a slice of the tart they made. In one final attempt to make Phil have traditional bachelor party fun, Derek and Craig drag him out to a strip club, where they find that they can no longer enjoy objectifying women because Phil taught them to see the strippers are people.

Phil gets a drunk dial from Kath asking to call off the wedding, explaining sudden reluctance to Kim’s decision to move in with Tina (her bachelorette gift to her mom), so Phil and the boys storm out to find her, but not without giving encouraging advice to the strippers on their way out. (“Aurora, good luck on that LSAT!”) They eventually find Kath, passed out above the doorway to Maneater’s, with no recollection of making that drunk dial. She and Phil get into a giant calling-off-the-wedding fight in which each tries to out-call-off the other, until Kim steps in and reminds them both that Kath didn’t really mean it. Way to save the day, Kim.

All I remember is that nice raccoon . . .

All I remember is that nice raccoon . . .

It can’t be a good thing when a female-led comedy doesn’t give anything funny to its female stars who are, in fact, very funny people. The stuff that works better on this show is the Craig and Phil stuff, a good 80% of the time. And even then, their stuff isn’t that funny. I found the bachelor party storyline much more entertaining than the bachelorette party storyline. And that makes me wonder about the nature of women in comedy in general. And why it’s funny for men to be naked but objectifying for women to be naked, a discussion that’s flared up again thanks to Vanity Fair‘s parody of its famous Tom Ford-Kiera Knightly-Scarlett Johannson cover by Judd Apatow’s leading men. I’d talk more about that, but it really doesn’t make sense to me to think deeply about anything in relationship to Kath & Kim.

30 Rock 3.13 “Goodbye, My Friend”

Man, what a jam-packed episode of 30 Rock, featuring a storyline for absolutely everyone, as well as the terrifying image of Judah Friedlander NOT LOOKING LIKE HIMSELF AT ALL.



For Liz, her baby mania gets the best of her with she and Pete make a late night donut run and she spies a young pregnant girl behind the counter with adoption brochures. Desperate to convince this young girl, Becca, to give Liz her baby, she sits down with her and tries to become her friend. Becca decides Liz is cool because she vaguely knows who Ne-Yo is and understands how hard it is to be broken up with on various forms of technology, which I suspect is either a slight dig at He’s Just Not That Into You or Liz trying to remember something she saw in the trailer from that film. In an effort to further ingratiate herself to the pregnant girl, Liz brings Becca on staff as a “youth consultant” and tries to push the girl into giving up her baby so she can pursue her career in terrible, psuedo-angsty girl rock about rainbows and cobwebs.

Meanwhile, Jack is trying to stay away from corporate and personal seduction while Elisa is in Puerto Rico in order to prove himself to her, so he decides to spend his Friday night bonding with the writing staff. At their lowbrow dinner, the men all bond over their fatherlessness and discuss the kind of disappointments they are to their families. In solidarity, Jack invites them over to his place to watch Harry and the Hendersons, bonding further over the scene where John Lithgow’s Henderson patriarch forces Harry back into the wilderness, the place he always belonged. During their bonding time, Frank reveals that he used to go to law school because every man in his family is a lawyer, so Jack offers to give him back that dream. Thus, Frank sheds his Frank garb and turns into Corporate Judah Friedlander, which is basically the most frightening image I’ve ever seen.

As for Jenna, her birthday is soon approaching and she’s feeling neglected, falling into her usual attention-seeking routines. Kenneth assures her that they’re planning a great party for her, but then he finds out that Tracy doesn’t have a birthday, a result of being born in Yankee Stadium and passed around through foster care his whole life. Kenneth wants to give him a birthday, so he makes Jenna share hers with Tracy. She is not pleased.

“My heart goes out to all the inner city kids, especially those too fat to dance their way out.” – Jenna

Even though she’s sharing her party with Tracy, Jenna still believes that she will get all the attention because its her actual birthday. She lets Tracy enter first, psyching herself up that he’s just the opening act and she’ll get more applause, but then Frank steals her thunder by entering and announcing he’s leaving to go back to law school, followed by a further interruption of Cerie, wearing Jenna’s dress that she asked no one else wear for her party, announcing that her father bought everyone exclusive event tickets. Enraged, Jenna abandons her party altogether and goes back to seeking attention through feigning family deaths and personal injury. Kenneth notices Tracy is despondent after the party:

“What’s the matter, Mr. Jordan? I know you only make cheese friends when something’s bothering you.”

Tracy explains that he’s upset because his birthday was over and his wish hadn’t come true yet. Jenna wheels herself in and Kenneth asks her to help narrow down what Tracy’s wish might have been so they can help make it come true. Collectively, he, Grizz and DotCom narrowed it down to owning a Robocop, hunting the elephant that paints or breakfast in bed. Frustrated by all the attention Tracy’s getting, Jenna breaks out of her back brace and wheelchair and announces that she’s done seeking attention because no one notices her anyway. Tracy sees this and announces that his birthday wish came true, after all. He was going to wish for all of the things Kenneth mentioned, but then he saw Jenna enter her party in her back brace and wished that she’d get well instead. Awwwwww . . .

Jack has dinner with Frank’s mom, Patti LuPone (why the hell not?), and she reveals that she was glad her son became a loser comedy writer because all the other Rossitano men, including Frank’s father, were lawyers for the mob and they were all either dead or in hiding, which is exactly why Frank’s dad is hiding out in Phoenix. She instructs Jack to fix this and derail her son from the law school path, which he later does by reenacting that final scene from Harry and the Hendersons, pushing Frank to go back to the wilderness of the writer’s room.

Pete encourages Liz to get Becca back together with her loser boyfriend, Tim, but when Tim shows up at 30 Rock unannounced, she’s ready to make him quietly go away until she runs into John Lithgow in the elevator. The mere presence of the man is a sign for her.

Liz: Oh, fine, Lithgow! I’ll do the right thing!
Lithgow: I guess someone’s been watching The World According to Garp.

Liz tells Tim that he needs to get back together with Becca and raise his baby by pointing out Jack and Frank, telling the boy that both of those men are horribly fucked up because of the lack of a father in their lives. Becca and Tim come together in song, that same terrible one about rainbows and cobwebs.

Oddly, I think this is also the same emotion Lithgow experienced when Sweet Smell of Success closed on Broadway.

Oddly, I think this is also the same emotion Lithgow experienced when Sweet Smell of Success closed on Broadway.

As Liz and Jack recap their days and their experiences trying to become surrogate parents (“In a way, we both lost children today.” “Yeah, except mine was real. Yours was Frank.”), Lithgow wanders in, desperately trying to get out of the building:

“Can someone tell me how to get out of this building? It’s like a maze! I keep walking past the same Sbarros!”

Although the C-story with Tracy and Jenna was kind of throw away, I really liked the Jack and Liz stories this week. Patti LuPone was really funny in her cameo as Frank’s crazy Italian mother, and I even liked the abuse of John Lithgow, who is always really good when confused and befuddled, an opinion I developed as a fan of Third Rock from the Sun. I hope to never, ever, ever see Judah Friedlander cleaned up again. Like Harry, he belongs in the wild.

Other funny things:

  • “In Gaelic, Donaghey means ‘dung basket.'” – Jack
  • Frank’s hat this week: “Incompl te”
  • “I’m the one who’s been here for Becca for almost two days! This Tim guy is all washed!” – Liz
  • Patti LuPone’s art therapy painting:
It's Rose's turn, ya'll.

It's Rose's turn, ya'll.