Intellectual Reacharound

Tu lascerai ogne cosa diletta
più caramente; e questo è quello strale
che l'arco de lo essilio pria saetta.

Tu proverai sì come sa di sale
lo pane altrui, e come è duro calle
lo scendere e 'l salir per l'altrui scale.

All that you held most dear you will put by and leave behind you: and this is the arrow the longbow of your exile first lets fly.

You will come to know how bitter as salt and stone is the bread of others, how hard the way that goes up and down that never are your own.

-Dante, The Paradiso

It has been a few days, friends, has it not? The reasons for our prolonged estrangement need not concern us today. Perhaps as the week barrels on we can take up the subject anew, but for today let us celebrate today, and make ripe the fruit on the tree.

Honors must need go to International Day. I stepped away at the zenith of the month's ingenuity, and missed some classic days indeed. Though the official holidays may be past, I encourage you to celebrate them anyway. Some include poetry, some include hobbits, and some include killing people in grisly fashion:

September 20 - International Guillotine Day. (I could have really used this)

September 21 - International She Walks in Beauty Like the Night Day (I wrote this, and it is awesome. You owe it to yourself, your wife, whomever, to go there right now. RIGHT NOW!)

September 22 - International Hobbit Day (If Pillsbury had any sense they would offer cute little rolls made out of "fro-dough")

September 23 - International Run Like a Kid Day (Preferably not one of Jerry's Kids)

September 24 - International Buy a Honda Day (After all, Zed's dead, baby. Zed's dead.)

And to finish up September, this week we have some dandies:

September 25 - International "odd Canada" Day (wearing a beaver, is, as always, optional)

September 26 - International Adopt an Accent Day (Is "Smurf" an accent? btw, this is my favorite for the whole month.)

September 27 - International "Look what I can Do!" Day (one wonders if the honoree of September 30 was thinking this)

September 28 - International Don't Surf the Internet at Work Day (Boogie-boarding is still okay)

September 29 - International Crikey! Day (I have been trying to think of a Life Cereal joke to go here for ten minutes, but struck out)

And September 30 - International Ripper Day (Ripper? I hardly know her!)

A serious note for a moment: some of you have never even gone to International Day, let alone commented. You know who you are. If you are a regular here at the Institute, for shame! These people come to work every month, wracking their brains for interesting days to post. Most of the time they even succeed. I am not asking for me. I have sophisticated hit-counter software, and if I want to I can track each and every one of you. (I don't want to, but I could.) But the hard-working stiffs over at International Day deserve a hand. Find time to head over to International Day and look over some of the holidays. Even if you cannot celebrate all of them, a thank you is not too much to ask.


Tiff and I have dueling stories again. The stories are based on this painting:

a gorgeous watercolor by Kara Castro. (For more on her work, go here)

Tiff came up with a story called "Where's Marisol?"

My story is on Hyperion After Dark. I want you to look at that picture again, think of me, and then think long and hard on whether you want to read the story. There are no bad words or anything like that, but...well, up to you.

Hyperion's take: Sit, Little Angel Girl


I continue in my quest to watch every new show I can and review them for you....

TV is under a real renaissance, is it not? It is getting so that a person can barely have any life at all. You come home and there is just so much to watch! (Except Friday and Saturdays: they suck.)

Now, I know what some of you are thnking: get a life.

Fine, fine. Feel free not to watch TV. But wipe that smug expression of your face. TV at its best is high art, and some of the best art in the world is right there in that box each evening. Of course, an awful lot of crap is in that box too.

That is why you have me! I am here to give you the rundown on each of the new shows. Now, some of you may not have my taste (read: you suck), but I have tried to craft these reviews to explain what the program is like so you can figure out whether 'tis for you.

First, the ones I have recently covered:

VANISHED (Mondays on FOX)
Senator’s Wife is kidnapped; twists and turns ensue. I abandoned this after one episode.

STANDOFF (Tuesdays on FOX)
Hostage negotiators, starring the guy from Office Space. I really enjoyed the first two episodes with a breezy tone dominating rather than total tenseness, but I wonder whether the show can continue to be interesting over the weeks, and with more shows coming on board, do not know if I will hang.

JUSTICE (Wednesdays on FOX)
Very entertaining so far, with a behind-the-scenes look at a high priced defense firm. I am a huge Victor Garber fan, and I love the supporting cast so far. I also like how at the end they show you what actually happened. Wit LOST coming soon I doubt Justice stays on my radar, but I sure have enjoyed it so far.

Studio 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP (Sundays in Canada, Mondays on NBC)
The best of all the new shows I have thus seen, and the second episode was better than the first. I cannot recommend this show highly enough. Behind the scenes of a Saturday Night Live-type show, Studio 60 is funny but really is a drama. You can already pencil in an Emmy nomination for Matthew Perry, and I bet a Best Drama nomination too (among many others). This is the show. Last night’s episode included a musical number with the term “Intellectual Reach-around.” If you cannot get into a show that uses the term “Intellectual Reach-around,” you and I are just very different people.

Here are the new shows, in a generally improving trend. (Make sure you read until the end, for the last review premieres tonight!)


Calista Flockhart as a conservative TV pundit. If you can believe that, you can probably buy the show. Actually, I do can make it even simpler than that. Brothers and Sisters airs right after Desperate Housewives. If you can still stomach that show, this is probably right up your alley.

Maybe I am too harsh. The story of a grown up family of brothers and sisters (and of course mom and dad and even a screwy uncle) is riddled with a talented cast. Besides Flockhart, there is Rachel Griffith, Tom Skerritt, Ron Rifkin and Sally Field. Maybe it will get better, but I’m guessing one time through is enough to let you know what you are getting.

BOTTOM LINE: Go ahead. I doubt I will be joining you.


Could not sit through it. You are on your own.

SHARK (Thursdays on CBS)

My mom called this before the second commercial break: “House in a Courtroom.” Well, not exactly, but close enough.

James Woods is the prototypical “Shark” Defense lawyer. He gets his client off for Attempted Murder on the client’s wife. That night…wait for it….the man actually kills the wife.

Nine months later Woods is in a tailspin, his guilt not allowing him to practice law anymore. Luckily, the mayor shows up. Tired of rich people getting away with murder in L.A., they are starting a new “high profile crime” unit, and guess who the mayor wants to lead it?

The lawyers assigned are all misfits; washed out everywhere else. Then there is the D.A. (Jeri Ryan, no longer smoking hot but still very pretty), who resents this shark in her waters.

BOTTOM LINE: If you like Law shows, definitely worth a look. Otherwise, it depends on whether you like procedurals, Woods, or Six Degrees.

SIX DEGREES (Thursdays on ABC)

New York is a city of 8 million we are told (actually closer to 17 million, but let that pass for now). In this…behemoth of a city, several people’s lives connect in eerie ways. As in an “only in a TV show where someone is writing the script” sort of way. It was kind of cool to see Erika Christensen again, although she always looks so different. The show stretches credulity to an eye-rolling degree, but then again, pretty much with all TV you have to do that.

Again, let me help you out: Six Degrees comes on after Grey’s Anatomy, and I am guessing if you like the one, you will like the other. I am not comparing the two, quality-wise, but they are somewhat similar in tone.

My favorite part was arguing with my sister over whether a man had good intentions to his girl. Bridget Moynahan (who is no longer so young; more on that another time) asks her boyfriend to marry her. He says yes, but then she finds his picture on a singles website. His explanation is that the office interns did it as a joke. Yeah right. No way would he not tell her about that. She is distrustful and sets up a “meet” with a perfect girl. He shows up, only to have a ring (which he was denied giving her when she asked him).

At this point, my sister counted coup, believing that her faith in the man had been borne out. Only in the last two seconds do we see I was right all along, and that was one sweeeeeeet gloat, my friends.

BOTTOM LINE: Worth a look or two if you are not done watching TV after CSI or Grey’s (or, uh, even Deal or No Deal).

KIDNAPPED (Wednesdays on NBC)

The other kidnapping show, this one takes the old Law & Order time slot. 800X better than Vanished, I was super impressed by the pilot.

Part of it may be the cast. The always delicious (and one of the top five hotties over 50) Dana Delany is married to Timothy Hutton, looking decided middle aged. Add to that Jeremy Sisto (the dude from CLUELESS who was missing his Cranberry CD), my main man Delroy Lindo and….Bubba Gump! (without the lip thingy). I know: awesome.

The deal is that Timothy Hutton and Dana Delany are rich people…rich people with secrets! (Dun Dun Dun!) Their son with a heart problem is kidnapped. They call a K&R guy (Sisto) to get him back. Unfortunately, the FBI gets wind of matters, and they get involved too.

The problem with the FBI getting involved with a kidnapping case is that they not only want to secure the return of the hostage, but catch the perpetrators. This can contradict with returning the kid. Thus the conflict.

BOTTOM LINE: I have not seen every last-hour time-slot show on Wednesday yet, but so far, this one is a winner.

SMITH (Mondays in Canada, Tuesdays on CBS)

I am not saying we have the second coming of Tony Soprano, or even the anti-heroes of The Shield, but I will say this: I do not think Network TV has ever had a show that followed actual bad guys.

Oh yes: actual bad guys.

This “crew” is not all Ocean’s 11. More like HEAT. In the first episode, people get killed. Security guards and people who keep one of the bad guys from surfing! (You gotta love a dude who would murder over beach rights.)

The main bad guy is Ray Liotta, and his wife is played by Virginia Madsen, the woman from SIDEWAYS with the super-sexy voice. The money to front the operations comes from Shohreh Aghdashloo, who some of you may know was nominated for an Oscar in THE HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG, and some of you may remember as the hot mom terrorist in Season 4 of 24.

BOTTOM LINE: I am a little worried that some of the supporting characters may be a bit blah, but I am so excited to see actual bad guys on a network TV show, that I am going to be watching Smith as long as I can.

HEROES (Mondays on NBC)

Remember the first 10 minutes of the original X-Men movie, before the school, the spandex, and the spiffy one-liners? When we were just moving around the world watching people, outcasts really, trying to come to terms with their “powers”?

That is NBC’s new Sci-Fi show Heroes. (At least the first hour, in what I should warn you is a cliffhanger. I was quite set up when NBC sent me the pilot for preview purposes, but a tad miffed when it just started going good and the dreaded “To Be Continued” appeared on screen.

But I suppose it should be accounted a good thing that I was drawn in, eh? The theory, not really explained in more than a psychobabble intro, is that the human genome project has revealed that with just a fraction of mutation the next step of human evolution is right around the corner.

I know what you are thinking: can Wolverine be far behind? I have no idea where they are going with this, but I gather it will be more “ordinary people do extraordinary things” than nicknames that sound like American Gladiator tryouts.

In the first hour, we meet our presumable protagonists. One might be able to tell the future. One can break every bone and have it heal almost immediately. One can…uh, talk to herself in the mirror. And one—who has to be everyone’s initial favorite—can bend the fabric of space and time, which translates to teleportation. His first test: a woman’s restroom at a crowded nightclub.

See: you like him already.

And if you are not convinced, what if I added that the kid is chubby, nerdy, Japanese, convinced he is the second coming of Spock, and unlike everyone else who seems to be freaked out by these new discoveries, honestly cheerful and cool with it all.

I told you he was cool.

A show like Heroes is obviously contrived, but no more so than CSI. (C’mon: do you really think science nerds solve all those crimes? That show is as much sci-fi as BSG, and if you think the techies do collect evidence with their perfect hair hanging everywhere….) NBC does not have a great track record with Sci-Fi. In fact, the last show even approaching Sci-Fi was the Misfits of Science. (Anyone old and cool enough to remember that? Just me, huh?)

Heroes will work if the characters have some sort of chemistry and if the storylines feel important enough but not too self-important, all while avoiding too much X-Men cribbing. Already there are some plot lines that seem darkly interesting, but only time will tell.

BOTTOM LINE: Along with Studio 60, Heroes makes Monday night potentially the most interesting on TV.


kapgar said...

I am right there with you on everything you said about Kidnapped. I'm loving it so far. I'm glad Netflix offered up the premiere a little more than a month ago or we likely would never have tuned in. We weren't interested based solely on the description.

Ironically enough, the DVD I got just before the Studio 60/Kidnapped pilots was Turk 182. God I love that movie. A whole lotta Hutton that week.

tiff said...

Well, SOMEBODY'S been busy while on hiatus! This one post is the equivalent of most other people's week's worth of posting.

All right - studio 60 tonight.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had read this before wasting all my time watching the same shows!