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Archive for May, 2007

NUTS for Jericho

May
31

peanuts-jeff.jpgThe thing that struck me the most when I first started seeing things about the NUTS for Jericho campaign (alternatively known as NUTS to CBS) was that the business involved in sending the nuts was a family-owned outfit out of New Jersey, not some big conglmerate. And, even more striking, the owner wasn’t a fan of our beloved “Jericho.”

So I e-mailed a few questions today to NutsOnline CEO Jeffrey Braverman to learn more about him and how he came to be thrust in the middle of a campaign to save a show that he hadn’t even watched.

Remote Access: First off, I understand you had never watched Jericho before the campaign began? Is that correct? Have you managed to see any episodes since?
Jeffrey Braverman: Correct. I have watched 4.8 episodes so far. .8 because I haven’t finished the 5th one yet.

RA: So how did your involvement in NUTS for Jericho begin?
JB: Orders were trickling in, then building up more, and email correspondence really picked up. I was very responsive, and posted something about Jericho on our normal blog. Then, more orders were started coming in and it seemed like there was a need to put together a collective campaign to pool resources (based on various email and phone conversations). We then immediately jumped into the campaign headfirst and built our nutsonline.com/Jericho page.

RA: Have you ever done anything like this before? I.e., pooled orders and connected customers together?
JB: No.

RA: If not, what made the Jericho fans special?
JB: Never been approached with something even remotely similar to this!

RA: How many pounds have been ordered so far?
JB: over 32,000 pounds

RA: What’s the reaction been when you guys have hand-delivered shipments at CBS’ New York hq?
JB: Relatively non-existent reaction- we just deal with the facility people there. They are pleasant, except if you have cameras!

RA: So now that you’ve actually seen Jericho, what do you think? You plan to watch its second season? (How’s that for optimism?)
JB: I really like Jericho and want to quickly watch the remaining episodes. It might be a little too early to pick a favorite character, but I like Dale. I would love to finish this season and then watch the 2nd season!!! Optimism indeed!

RA: Tell me a little bit about your company. I understand yours is a family outfit? Your website says since 1927(note from Amy: oops! 1929!), but I’m guessing it wasn’t Nuts Online back then.
JB: Since 1929. My grandfather started this. Historically retail, then some wholesale, and in 1999 we started nutsonline.com. My dad, uncle, and my cousin work with me. We were on the same street in Newark, NJ for 75 years until our facility was bulldozed in 2005 to make way for the Devils’ Arena (NHL Hockey). We will have concessions in the arena though.

By the way, for those of you wondering why nuts are the focal point, watch the final episode of Jericho online. And here’s a link to a story the explains the original (true) story behind it.

The obligatory Jericho links:
• The Save Jericho on CBS petition
• Jericho Rally Point (a forum to discuss the show and efforts to save it)
• A YouTube clip of a NutsOnline delivery
• The Save Jericho Now MySpace page.
• The Jericho Lives website
• CBS’s own Jericho Message Boards
• You can also buy “Save Jericho” T-shirts, with the proceeds going to charity to help rebuild Greensburg, Kansas, which was hit by major tornadoes the same week of Jericho’s finale (Jericho, for those who don’t know, is a fictional town in Kansas).

UPDATE: Here’s another link to another online petition.

Photo of Nuts Online CEO Jeffrey Braverman holding a bag of 25 pounds of peanuts and standing in front of a whole heckuva lot more. Courtesy of Nuts Online.

Posted by Amy Vernon on Thursday, May 31st, 2007 at 6:11 pm |
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This week on CTU Denver

May
31

Check out the second mind-blowing (or chunk-blowing?) webisode of CTU Denver. Hey, as long as 24’s off the air, we might as well find out WTF happened in Denver.

Posted by Amy Vernon on Thursday, May 31st, 2007 at 10:53 am |
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Viewer discretion is advised

May
30

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So according to TV Guide, not only is CTU not going to be around next season on 24, but there’s no terrorist. Just some other really bad guy with a “supremely dark past.”

They’re talking about this shift as a “reboot” for the series — and it really needs it. This season, while it had its moments, was so slow and uninteresting.

Whatever did “happen in Denver? And where is my weekly “CTU: Denver” episode, The Jack Sack?

Also, in “24” news, Chloe (yessssss!) won the1st Annual Miss Blogs4Bauer Contest.

I voted (multiple times — after all, I went to school in Chicago) for Chloe. Basically, while Nadia Yassir (the 1st runner-up) is actually more beautiful than Chloe, Chloe is pretty in a sarcastic, pouty, obnoxious sort of way, plus she’s brilliant, devious and handy with both a Taser AND a gun. And she didn’t even start off in the contest, she hacked her way in, replacing Debbie Pendleton (Behrooz’ ill-fated girlfriend) and handily beat Michele Dessler and the rest, as they say, is history.

TV Guide clipping from a scan on the SpoilerTV website.

Posted by Amy Vernon on Wednesday, May 30th, 2007 at 5:34 pm |
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‘The Tudors’ revisited

May
30

Things are heating up on “The Tudors,” which Showtime is presenting all this week, so I thought I’d have another crack at the series, which I didn’t much like when it began.
Sometimes, critics make pronouncements only to find themselves eating a large slice of humble pie when their predictions fall flat or their judgments prove premature.

Such is not the case here. “The Tudors”:http://www.sho.com/site/tudors does not excel upon further viewing, for many of the reasons I stated before. As Henry VIII, Jonathan Rhys Meyers tries hard. But he’s buffeted by the winds of miscasting. And he’s consistently undermined by poor plotting and writing.

Indeed, “The Tudors” reminds us that movies and TV shows are won or lost on paper, not the screen. At one point, the momentum —which should carry us through Henry’s determination to divorce his gracious first wife, Catherine of Aragon (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and marry ambitious trophy mistress Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer) — is stopped cold by a whole episode devoted to the plague. Yes, the plague. Even when “House” has some indecipherable disease that has body parts exploding, it has the good sense to cut away (no pun intended) to scenes of House trying to wriggle out of clinic duty while looking down Cuddy’s blouse or Cameron and Chase having furtive sex in the janitor’s closet. On “The Tudors,” we have scene after scene of people sweating, bleeding, losing their breath and wringing their hands. It’s needless.

Even the choice of language is at times ridiculous. When our bisexual lutenist puts the moves on one of the ladies in Henry’s court, she says, “You’re weird,” an adjective that did not develop its modern connotation until the early-19th century. I don’t expect faux-Shakespeare. But “The Tudors” suffers from a surfeit of modernity.

There are pleasures to be had here. Some of the supporting performances are terrific, particularly Sam Neil’s scheming Cardinal Wolsey, a study in futility as he tries to please a king who cannot be assuaged, and Jeremy Northam as principled Thomas More, who’s more interested in serving God.

The real joy of these later episodes, however, is the battle between Catherine, the classic first wife, who will not go gently into that good night, and Anne, who won’t give in to Henry until there’s a ring on her finger. Though Kennedy and Dormer now have virtually no scenes together, they’re like two superb tennis players, and Henry is merely the court on which they’ve decided to play their zero-sum game of love.

Posted by Georgette Gouveia on Wednesday, May 30th, 2007 at 5:17 pm |
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More cheerleaders and a guy named Bob

May
30

A whole bunch of new cast members are being added to Heroes next season.

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SPOILERS AHEAD. If you prefer not to know anything about Season 2, don’t read. But no real plot spoilers, just casting spoilers.

First off, Greg Grunberg is not talking at all about whether his character actually was killed in the season finale.

Next, it’s been pretty widely reported that Claire gets a boyfriend next season. Good for her.

Then there’s this list of new cast members, from TVSquad. I’ve condensed it below
• Series regular Maya, a Hispanic woman in her mid 20s.
• Kane, a recurring character who might become a regular. A man in his late 20s, “an ageless American with an European feel.” Said to be “a charming womanizer who as a soul that seems to be older than he appears to be.”
• A Japanese recurring female character named Princess Keriyama.
• A few high schoolers in California as recurring cast: April, a lesbian cheerleader; West, a charming 18-year-old “who doesn’t fit in much” (Claire’s boyfriend?); and the mean cheerleader, May. (Amy note: Does this mean Claire’s going to school in Cali now?)
• Recurring characters Georgie and Blackie, “two Irish thieves under orders of 45ish ringleader Ricky.”
• “Mild-mannered” Bob, 40, who is said to be the “unassuming face of a very powerful organization” — recurring character (a replacement for Linderman?)
• NYPD detective Kincaid, a recurring character.
• Series regular Monica, “a beautiful African-American in her late 20s.” (Amy note: Several sites have said she’s a surrogate mother to Micah, but I don’t understand exactly what that means, to be honest.)

I’m more interested, honestly, in what their powers are than their personalities. But I’m sure that’ll all come out in good time.

I read somewhere else that Peter is definitely alive, but that Adrian Pasdar (Nathan) hadn’t been firmed up for sure to return. If I ever remember where I read these, I’ll update this post and link to them.Note: I found the Adrian Pasdar mention, but I’m still not sure where I read the Peter one. I’ll update if I figure it out.

Posted by Amy Vernon on Wednesday, May 30th, 2007 at 4:54 pm |
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Nuts to CBS

May
30

Any fan of Jericho worth his or her salt has by now heard of the Nuts to CBS campaign to get our beloved show back on the air. (Click here if you haven’t and want to know more.)

Paltalk.com this afternoon will host an interview with Jeffrey Braverman, CEO of the family-owned Nuts Online. The company is based in Jersey and despite his not having watched Jericho (he’s more than made up for it!), Braverman offered to sell nuts to Jericho fans at steeply discounted prices (folks can pool their orders on the Nuts Online page, rather than doing smaller, individual orders. Besides the cost savings, getting 6,000 pounds of peanuts in the shell delivered at one time — Tuesday — has a little more oomph, IMHO) and ship them to CBS. He’s since shipped TENS OF THOUSANDS of pounds, closing in on 30,000.
And because Jericho is based in Kansas, which was hit by devastating tornadoes a few weeks ago. So the Nuts Online folks are even donating 10 cents to the Greensburg Rebuilding Fund for every pound of nuts shipped, plus giving folks a couple of ways to donate without even buying nuts. You can even buy a NUTS for Jericho T-shirt, all the proceeds from which go to the Greensburg, Kansas, rebuilding fund.

Anyway, wanna hear the interview? You can listen live here.

Plus, I’ll throw in the links again to all the important Jericho-related sites:
• The Save Jericho on CBS petition
• Jericho Rally Point (a forum to discuss the show and efforts to save it)
• A YouTube clip of a NutsOnline delivery
• The Save Jericho Now MySpace page.
• The Jericho Lives website
• CBS’s own Jericho Message Boards

Who knows? CBS just might crack like a walnut in a nutcracker (OK, that was lame).

Posted by Amy Vernon on Wednesday, May 30th, 2007 at 3:15 pm |
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NBC scraps super-sizing

May
30

News from the upfronts that NBC had ordered 25 episodes of the The Office next season, including five one-hour specials, was well received by fans.

But most assumed there’d also be several super-sized episodes mixed in as well. Those are the expanded 40-minute episodes NBC has been experimenting with the last 10 years. After all, there were six such episodes this past season.  30 Rock and My Name is Earl also got the super-sizing treatment this season.

According to TVWeek.com, though, that won’t be the case any more because the network is dropping the super-sized approach.

“It was a good idea when we started it. It was very novel,” said Vince Manze, NBC’s president of program planning, scheduling and strategy. “But it’s just not a good idea to have shows starting at 9:23 p.m. I don’t think anyone here thinks, at this point, super-sizing often is good for the shows. We’re going to do our best to not have to do it next year.”

Besides throwing off viewers, Manze claims the wonky start times threw off DVRs and Tivos too.

(That makes just about no sense to me as an explanation, mind you.)

Super-sizing was the brainchild of current NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker as a way to promote top sitcoms. Of course, back then NBC was at the top of the heap with Friends, Seinfeld and Frasier, and sitcoms weren’t the endangered species they are now.

Viewers were less likely to change channels if a quality show overlapped the next start time, and costs stayed down because super-sizing relied on otherwise unused footage. It also enabled the network to fill holes that cropped up in the schedule.

In my opinion, it also let a good show breathe, stretch its legs and find a voice that a claustrophobic 21 minutes too often doesn’t allow. Besides, you only need three quality shows to fill a two-hour block with super-sizing.

That should count for a lot when quality shows are so scarce.

Posted by Brian Howard on Wednesday, May 30th, 2007 at 9:23 am |
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More whack-a-doodles tonight on ‘Dance’

May
30

Memorial Day marked the unofficial start of summer. But for me, the season started last week with the premiere of my favorite warm-weather show, FOX’s ““So You Think You Can Dance.â€?”:http://fox.com/dance/

nyairsplitssytycd_nyc_0083.jpg

I’ve already blogged here about my secret love of “Dance,� probably because watching it brings back memories of when I was captain of my high school Sports Night dance team. (Go ahead and laugh. My husband, friends and co-workers do. But surprisingly, this did not mean I was a nerd: I went to an all-girls Catholic school, they apparently were far more forgiving…)

Anyway, the “Dance� competition is just getting started, with the standard train-wreck auditions from Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta continuing tonight (a two-hour program starting at 8 p.m.) and tomorrow (9 p.m.).

Read more of this entry »

Posted by Heather Salerno on Wednesday, May 30th, 2007 at 9:19 am |
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Fischer on her way back

May
30

There are worse places to be laid up than a Manhattan hotel room within walking distance of Central Park, but no doubt Jenna Fischer is ready to head home.

The Office star is still in New York and still in a lot of pain following a May 14 fall at the trendy Buddakan club which left her with four fractured vertebrae, USA Today reports, though she should be able to travel home to LA in another week.

A few interesting tidbits from the article:


  •  Fischer was headed for the dance floor at the urging of one of the show’s writers when she fell. “I was going to do one dance and then get out of there,” Fischer says. “The dance floor was down a long set of marble stairs. I linked arms with my friend and just missed a step. All I know is I was suddenly not on the ground anymore. My legs flipped out from underneath me, and while I was in the air, I had the thought, ‘This isn’t going to end well.’ “

  • Co-stars Steve Carell sent flowers, John Krasinski sent an e-mail and Rainn Wilson called. But Scrubs’s Zach Braff topped them all by sending cupcakes. “In those first few days, all my husband and I did for pleasure was watch a Larry Sanders DVD and eat those cupcakes.”

  • Now “mostly off the meds,” Fischer takes daily half-hour walks in Central Park as part of her recuperation.


Read the whole article here.

Posted by Brian Howard on Wednesday, May 30th, 2007 at 9:07 am |
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Flashing forward, flashing back

May
29

The latest news out there in Lost-land is that next season’s trademark flashbacks will be mixed in with flash-forwards, as we were treated to in last week’s mind-blowing season finale.

This is really good news, because we’ve gotten most of the backstory for most of our characters. I mean, what’s left to tell about Locke’s background? How he chose which wheelchair model to purchase (and manual or electric, a tough decision)? Or Jin and Sun — the goofy arguments they got in while planning their wedding (Sun: “Daffodils are the perfect flower for the centerpieces.” Jin: “I prefer tulips!”)?

Don’t get me wrong — there still are plenty of stories that could be filled in by going backwards (the rest of Jack’s tattoo, how Desmond ended up in the military and in prison, how Ben became the Others’ leader, why Richard Alpert’s never aged, just to name a few). But flash-forwards would be fascinating and could lend new insight into what exactly the island is and why it was or was not a good thing for them to get off it. And whose funeral Jack attended. (This is the best transcription of it I’ve seen and the theory about it kinda makes sense.)

BuddyTV had this to say about the next new info we might get:


The next big download of info on season four probably will occur at the San Diego Comic-Con July where the LOST crew traditionally holds a very telling question and answers panel. Comic Con has long been the origin of several LOST blockbusters; including season three’s forays into time travel.

And apparently the show starts production again in midAugust, so we should start seeing new spoilers about it around then. It wraps in March, a mere month after it starts airing new episodes again.

Sigh. I’ve gotta read all this insanity and speculate with my friends but not get any answers wait until February? I might actually go insane (no comment from those of you think think that’s a very short trip).

UPDATE: I missed this interview earlier. Damon Lindelof won’t confirm or deny the flash-forward and flash-backward thing, but has some other interesting things to say (and not say!)

Posted by Amy Vernon on Tuesday, May 29th, 2007 at 3:47 pm |
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Office musings

May
29

Only 114 days to go until Season 4

The folks who generate online Office-content all season long aren’t so willing to let go just because summer’s upon us.

Elyse over at LITO.com has one sure cure for Office withdrawal: Throwback Thursdays. The feature, which launched last week, takes a weekly look at a classic episode from the first three seasons, complete with recap, commentary, deleted scenes, links to related content like cast blogs and Wikipedia entries and homework. Yup, readers are encouraged to give feedback, write episode-related haiku and vote for the following week’s throwback episode. Last week it was “The Client

Along the same lines, the That’s What She Said and Office Alliance podcasts have both hinted at classic episode editions over the summer. OA already has a one-hour season 3 wrap-up edition up at iTunes too.

Filipelli peace summit

Yeah, few people are sad to see Karen Filippelli hit the road, but Rashida Jones’s ties to the show remain murky. I mean, we don’t know she didn’t get the job at corporate. We didn’t even see Jim dump her, so who’s to say what the deal is?

So it’s worth making peace with the fact Filippelli is likely still part of the office. And with her new pilot slated for a spring 2008 pickup, Jones is also still a part of The Office.

Kathie over at GiveMeMyRemote.com has made her peace with Jones after spending an evening with the actress at last week’s Peace Games in Boston. It’s a good read with insights into the actress behind the role.

There’s a clip from Jones’s new show, The Rules of Starting Over, here.

Shakeup at the Peacock

Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke reported over the weekend that NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly would be replaced by Ben Silverman.

NBC’s cellar-dwelling ratings make this little surprise. For Office fans the news might sound worrisome, though, considering Reilly has been a big cheerleader of the show and of 30 Rock, both of which benefited from his patience. At the same time, it was Silverman’s Reveille that produced The Office, as well as ABC’s Ugly Betty.

I’ll admit it’s beyond my expertise to size up what these kinds of moves mean long term, but I think the ratings dictated changes. (Note, The Office ranked 68th, averaging 8.3 million viewers.)

Speaking of 30 Rock, by the way, the Season 1 DVD is due in stores Sept. 4.

The end of The Office?

I’ve heard it argued, and convincingly at that, that if The Office had ended after the Season 2 finale, it could have gone down as a perfect and complete bit of television. Instead of a cliffhanger, the “Casino Night” kiss would have provided satisfaction and closure to the story of Jim and Pam.

I don’t quite agree, nor do I subscribe to the latest “end it now” diatribe being floated, though again, pretty convincingly.

Last season’s ending was pyrotechnic, furtive, dramatic and fraught,” writes Eric Zorn at The Chicago Tribune. “This season’s ending was pitch-perfect ordinary, which is how lasting love is and must be, really.

Had enough of Office romances?

This writer has, and they’re not making many friends in The Office fandom by saying so.

What began as a witheringly accurate account of modern American business incompetence and interpersonal awkwardness (following the lead of its British progenitor) has been shanghaied and derailed by this fixation on love.

The piece rails against relationships run amok across the TV dial. (It’s a metaphor. TV’s used to have dials. Trust me.) He cites Friends as an example where eventually every person on a show had seemingly become involved with every other.

It’s a fair criticism, and I sometimes do feel like the Jim and Pam saga has hijacked my favorite workplace comedy. That said, I think the writer takes the point too far, especially when concluding that Jim would be better off with Karen than Pam.

That’s just silly.

Emmy fever

The 2007 Primetime Emmy Awards are a long ways off—Sept. 16—but the judging is under way as shows have submitted episodes to be considered for nomination.

OfficeTally.com has culled The Office’s complete submission list and it looks like Jenna Fischer has swapped out “Grief Counseling”, her initial submission, for “The Job.” That’s definitely an upgrade for showcasing her considerable talents, though she couldn’t have gone wrong with “Beach Games” either.

I don’t get “The Coup” as the Best Comedy Series submission, though. There’s a lot of slapstick laughs there, but it’s few fans’ favorite of the season.

Jenna update

The update is that there is no update, which is probably good news as she recovers from a back injury suffered after falling in New York two weeks ago.

On the bright side, donations to Rover Rescue, the LA-based animal shelter Fischer asked fans to support in lieu of letters and flowers, has received a whopping $1,997 as a result, founder and Executive Director Cathy Rubin tells me this morning.

As the owner of a rescue dog myself, I’m glad to share the link.

Carell Almighty

NBC is giving a boost to Steve Carell’s upcoming Evan Almighty by dedicating a page at its video site DotComedy to clips of Carell’s comic genius, from The 40-Year-Old Virgin to The Office. Check it out here.

Posted by Brian Howard on Tuesday, May 29th, 2007 at 12:59 pm |
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Still hope for Jericho?

May
28

So, the word is out in the blogosphere that we should not give up hope for some sort of return for Jericho. It would seem the main hurdle that needs to be overcome is for CBS to find a way to bring it back but not lose face.

While nothing’s set in stone by any means whatsoever, the Nuts to CBS campaign has been bombarding The Eye’s hq with thousands of pounds of nuts. Here, thanks to Jericho Lives is a list of what’s been sent so far:


live status (@ 8:34 PM EDT)
orders $$ weight
pooled 2900 $32525 24004 lbs
indiv. 172 $1798 1185 lbs
total 3072 $34323 25189 lbs
(“pooled” = via this page) – 89 lbs shipped on 5/17 – 24 lbs shipped on 5/18 – 1393 lbs shipped on 5/21
(inc. 1000 lbs of pooled order) – 4042 lbs shipped on 5/22
(inc. 4000 lbs of pooled order) – 4252 lbs shipped on 5/23
(inc. 4000 lbs pooled to NYC)
(inc. 200 lbs* pooled to LA) – hand delivered 1000 lbs on 5/24 – 2572 lbs shipped on 5/24
(inc. 2000 lbs of pooled order) – 4755 lbs shipped on 5/25
(inc. 4750 lbs of pooled order) – yet to ship: 6712 lbs

The purpose of this posting, however, is to get another posting in the blogosphere that links not only to Jericho Lives, but also to the Save Jericho on CBS petition the Jericho Rally Point (a forum to discuss the show and efforts to save it), the NutsOnline Nuts for Jericho page site, a YouTube clip of a NutsOnline delivery and even CBS’s own Jericho Message Boards.

UPDATE: Here’s another link, to the Save Jericho Now MySpace page.

Keep fighting!

Posted by Amy Vernon on Monday, May 28th, 2007 at 8:41 pm |
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Gilmore Girls … the movie

May
28

OK, it’d be a made-for-TV movie, but there’s talk of a Gilmore Girls movie that would tie up the loose ends left by the sudden cancellation of the series. Here’s a link.

To be honest, I didn’t really see any loose ends that needed tying up. I thought they did an excellent job of ending the series without even knowing it was ending.

Paris got into Harvard Medical and chose a career in medicine over law.

Luke and Lorelai got back together.
Rory got a cool job for a news website covering the Barak Obama campaign.

Luke and Lorelai got back together.

Rory and Logan broke up (finally!).

Luke and Lorelai got back together.

Richard and Emily Gilmore found that all these years of repairing their relationship for Rory’s sake actually worked and they wouldn’t have to pay to put in tennis courts at the Dragonfly Inn just to keep communication with Lorelai.

Did I mention that Luke and Lorelai got back together?

Sure, there are those famous “Four words” that Amy Sherman-Palladino was said to have wanted to use as the final words of the final episode of Gilmore, and no one knows what they are.

But, really, who cares? Do they need to create a two-hour TV movie to prove that Luke and Lorelai are back together? Other than the Gilmores’ interfamilial relationships, that’s always been the point of the series — the relationship between Luke and Lorelai.

While this season wasn’t the finest of the run, it was still quite good (not enough Kirk and Babette, though, for my taste). It ended just like it began — with Rory and Lorelai sitting in Luke’s diner, talking.

Let it rest.

Posted by Amy Vernon on Monday, May 28th, 2007 at 7:17 pm |
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Peruvian idol

May
25

Forget “American Idol.”

You know you have to be a pretty good singer to take what is the third lead in an opera and turn it into the starring role.

Such is the case of Peru’s Juan Diego Floréz, the leading Rossini tenor of the day, whose performance as Count Almaviva in “Great Performances at the Met: The Barber of Seville”:http://thirteen.org, airing at 8 p.m. Thursday on WNET/Channel 13, is one of the greatest operatic performances I’ve seen in more than 25 years of covering the arts.

Heck, it’s one of the greatest performances, period. Floréz has it all: He’s handsome, graceful, dramatic, romantic and funny. Most of all, he can really sing coloratura and make those running passages mean something.

As the disguised, lovesick count — who enlists the aid of canny barber and man-about-town Figaro to win the spirited Rosina away from guardian Dr. Bartolo — Floréz must use all of his considerable gifts. That he’s able to do this and still sound fresh in the last act, when Almaviva does the heavy vocal lifting, is nothing short of a miracle.

The rest of the cast is superb, with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and Swedish baritone Peter Mattei adding to the vocal fireworks as Rosina and Figaro, respectively, while John Del Carlo brings out the humor in Dr. Bartolo’s lechery and treachery. (He’s creepy but in a good way.)

Director Bartlett Sher (“The Light in the Piazza”) has transformed 18th-century Seville into a magical botanical print (lots of orange trees and moving doors) while making excellent use of the stage’s lip. Gary Halvorson, director of the TV production, wisely stays out of the way of Sher’s staging, keeping the fancy-schmancy camera angles to a minimum.

Similarly, conductor Maurizio Benini keeps things humming before the listeners figure out that Rossini, while a sparkling composer, is no Mozart. (Both are masters of the running passage, but Mozart puncuates his with these huge leaps in intervals, and there’s no repetition. The result is a workout for the brain as well as the vocal chords.)

No opera buff can afford to miss an appointment with this “Barber.” But even if you’re not a fan, there’s hardly anyone who doesn’t know this work. The conspiratorial overture is a staple of commercials, as is the “Largo al factotum,” Figaro’s fanfare for the uncommon common man. Meanwhile, Rosina’s cagey aria, “Una voce poco fa,” has always been a favorite of Miss America hopefuls who make it to the talent competition.

(That they can actually sing it is another matter.)

You know these characters — originally created by the playwright Beaumarchais — too. They appear in Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” where they’re older and everything’s gone to seed. (Though written later, Rossini’s opera is really a prequel. Interestingly, in “Figaro,” Almaviva morphs from a romantic lead to the bad guy, and a baritone, sort of the way Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader.)

No pop cultural discussion of “The Barber of Seville” would be complete without mentioning its brilliant use in the Bugs Bunny cartoon “What’s Opera, Doc?”

Juan Diego Floréz may not be Bugs. But he’s pretty darn close.

Posted by Georgette Gouveia on Friday, May 25th, 2007 at 4:18 pm |
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‘Star’ turn

May
24

Are you getting out early tomorrow to buy the Star Wars stamps? I know I am. There are all kinds of celebrations planned for the 30th anniversary of the first — er, fourth — “Star Wars” movie, including special website offerings (which I didn’t really understand and so, I won’t be writing about them) and the postal salute. It’s hard to imagine that any will top ”’Star Wars”: The Legacy Revealed,” on The History Channel 9 p.m. Monday.

But then, I’m prejudiced. “The Legacy Revealed” is my kind of show, a cultural historical exploration of what “Star Wars” means and has meant to those of us who’ve grown up with it. Having said that, there’s little behind-the-scenes action and not one interview with anyone who had anything to do with the movies. Instead, we get a roundup of unusual suspects — current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and former Speaker Newt Gingrich; former anchormen Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather; filmmakers Peter Jackson and Kevin Smith; cultural historian Camille Paglia and a group of psychology, religion and philosophy professors who are less well-known but no less interesting.

The result is a program that is less a how of the “Star Wars” saga than a why, beautifully supported by a generous helping of clips from all six films.
The two-hour special recalls how “Star Wars” creator George Lucas was inspired by the writings of Joseph Campbell, a onetime teacher of mythology at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers. “A Legacy Revealed” charts the fourth, fifth and sixth “Star Wars” movies as the heroic journey of Luke Skywalker, who must overcome the dark daddy within and redeem his actual father to fulfill his destiny. (Reading the movies this way, the Anakin Skywalker narrative in the first three movies is the hero’s journey in reverse.)

Meanwhile, 4, 5 and 6 also take us on the lovers’ journey, as Princess Leia and Han Solo find the soulmate in each other. (Thankfully, “The Legacy Revealed” contains the moment from “The Empire Strikes Back,” the best of the films, in which self-possessed Leia finds the courage to tell Han “I love you” just before he’s frozen, and he simply replies, “I know.” It gets me every time.)

The analysis and the clips, which are supplemented with Renaissance paintings and historical footage, are so good that I have little to add.

Except for two points. The discussion of Anakin’s fall from grace, rightly compared to Lucifer’s in John Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” centers on his quest for power. But I don’t think Anakin wants power as much as he wants control, because he’s afraid of losing his wife, Padmé, as he lost his mother. What he shares with Lucifer and a host of other literary characters and historical figures is a disproportionate rage at rejection. He just can’t stand that Padmé and Obi-Wan have rejected what he’s become, and rather than dare to think they’re right, he surrenders to his blood lust and all but destroys himself.

My other point relates to Lucas’ brilliant equation of the imperial storm troopers with the Nazis, one of the greatest metaphors of fascism on film. Lucas, a child of the postwar era, was warning us against what happens when man is treated like a machine.
Today, however, the primary machine is the almighty Internet. We’d be wise to learn to control it before it starts controlling us.

Posted by Georgette Gouveia on Thursday, May 24th, 2007 at 4:46 pm |
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The final (finale?) Carnival of Bauer

May
24

That’s right, the last Carnival of Bauer of 2007 has posted.

carnival-1.jpg
Sniff. The carnival returns next year.

Can’t wait ‘til then? Check out The Jack Sack each week for new episodes of “CTU Denver.”

Posted by Amy Vernon on Thursday, May 24th, 2007 at 3:32 pm |
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Kyle XY is not alone

May
24

Jessi XX wakes up in the woods, covered in pink goo, just like Kyle XY. But her creators program her to kill Kyle. I guess because she has no belly button, she becomes Lori Nicole (thanks, Aimee, for that catch!) Trager’s newest patient.

That’s what we have to look forward to when the new season starts at 8 p.m. June 11.

Jessi XX will be played by Jaimie Alexander. It looks like Declan becomes even more important this season, as Jessi becomes distracted from her mission to kill Kyle once she meets Lori Trager’s boyfriend.

While last season had a “moral of the episode” feel to it, this season looks as if it’ll be more mysterious, darker and a heckuva lot more interesting. Bring it on.

Posted by Amy Vernon on Thursday, May 24th, 2007 at 2:55 pm |
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The 4400 starts again soon

May
24

So here’s a few tidbits from the first five episodes of my favorite summer show, “The 4400,” courtesy of SpoilerFix.com.

The Wrath of Graham: Airs June 17. A student named Graham is surprised when his classmates agree to play any sports he wants. Kyle gets a new job: helping out the 4400 as legal aid. Shawn is a patient at the hospital and has terrible convulsions.

Fear Itself: Airs June 24 (your humble writer’s birthday, which she shares with former Gov. George Pataki). People start seeing what they fear most, but no one else can see it. Tom’s investigation leads him to a bank as a few of the victims used the bank’s ATM before the attacks. Isabelle may get a better living situation if she agrees to be injected promicin.

Audrey Parker’s Come & Gone: Airs July 1? 70-year-old Audrey Parker, via voice over, explains her past and why she decided to take promicin at such a late age. She develops the power of astral projection, but can only project herself at 25 years old.

The Truth & Nothing But The Truth: Airs July 8? April Soukris (Diana’s sister), having been on the run for four months after taking promicin, comes back and uses her new power to help Tom and Diana on a case.

Try the Pie: Airs July 15? Shannon Reese has the ability to remove stress in people’s lives by listening to their problems, and teaches Tom about her neighbors, who all took promicin, courtesy of their town, Evanston, Ill. (home of my alma mater, Northwestern University)

Posted by Amy Vernon on Thursday, May 24th, 2007 at 2:26 pm |
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In case you missed it: Blake Lewis and Doug E. Fresh steal show from Jordin Sparks on ‘Idol’ finale

May
24

Click here to see THE water-cooler moment from last night’s “American Idol” finale.

blake.jpgMy favorite part’s at the 1:36 mark, when Blake plays with the phrase “Oh, my God!” as if it were being scratched on a turntable.

Yes, I know I sound like a 12-year-old girl.

A short list of reasons why you’d hate this clip:

1. You hate rap and/or hip-hop.

2. You hate the theme from “Inspector Gadget.”

3. You hate fun.

(Photo by Frank Micelotta/FOX)

Posted by Chris Serico on Thursday, May 24th, 2007 at 1:03 pm |
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Fischer said still to be in New York following fall

May
24

Though not much has changed, updates do continue to trickle out, even as well-wishes from fans pour in, regarding Jenna Fischer’s recovery from a nasty fall during last week’s upfronts.

The 33-year-old actress suffered four fractures to her lower back after slipping on a marble staircase while wearing high heels. She reportedly sustained no permanent damage and is expected to make a full recovery.

Apparently Fischer, who plays heretofore lovelorn receptionist Pam on The Office, is still in New York, despite earlier reports that she would fly home to recuperate as soon as she was ready to travel.

“But, it’s true: Jenna Fischer hurt her back at the NBC party and she is still recovering in NYC,” castmate Kate Flannery, who plays Meredith on the show, writes in her weekly blog for TVGuide.com. “She is in pain right now, but the doctors say there is no permanent damage expected. I’m sure she will be back next season! Keep her in your thoughts.”

Fans are doing just that, judging by the flood of message board posts to fan sites and TV blogs wishing Fischer a speedy recovery.

Read more of this entry »

Posted by Brian Howard on Thursday, May 24th, 2007 at 12:16 pm |
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