Fall TV

I’ve been watching some of the new series so you don’t have to. You can thank me later.

$#*! My Dad Says, CBS, Thursdays 8:30/7:30

My buddy badger likes to say he’s a Captain Kirk fan, not a William Shatner fan. That’s how he was able to enjoy the Star Trek reboot. I am, however, a William Shatner fan. “Boston Legal” was brilliant for a short time, largely due to Shatner. He flunked as a gameshow host and no one watches his talk show, but CBS seems to be counting on him to help them on Thursday nights.

[An aside: I had to look up which night this show (and all shows) air because I timeshift everything. I long for the days when no one cares what the Thursday night line up is because no one watches TV as it’s happening (except for sports)].

I watched the pilot and it made me laugh. But as it so often the case, the pilot only gives the surface flavor of this particular gobstopper. I can see this gelling into a pretty good comedy. They need to tone down some of the more silly aspects. In the pilot, for example, there is a running gag about how Shatner’s character doesn’t like the Girl Scouts. It doesn’t fit and it should have been cut, but I sense it was an effort to write something other than acerbic bon mots for Shatner.

This sitcom originated from a Twitter account in which a guy loses his job and moves in with his father, who is at a stage in his life where he doesn’t censor himself. He began tweeting his dad’s witty observations and soon he had 500,000 followers, a book contract and a development deal with CBS.

From such shaky origins, the best of television does not spring. We’ll see.

Raising Hope, Fox, Tuesdays, 9/8

I really liked “My Name Is Earl” because it was different from anything else. “Raising Hope” has much of that same feeling: snappy dialogue, funny/pathetic characters, a skewed angle on the rural working class and a setting there oddball behavior is considered the norm. But the premise is a little stale: immature and unprepared guy finds out he has to raise a child he didn’t plan on.

Of course they put their own twist on it: the baby, Hope, is the product of a one-night stand with a serial killer who is subsequently captured, convicted and executed, leaving the immature and unprepared guy with a baby daughter.

The cast is great and there was even a little shout out to “Earl” in the pilot. This could be the best new show on Fox this season and therefore is probably doomed.

Better With You, ABC, Wednesdays 7:30/8:30

I want to like this show. It has flown under the radar for the most part because I haven’t seen so much as a commercial for it. I saw it on the schedule and watched the pilot. It is a relationship sit-com that tracks three couples: a young couple who has been together for a few months and are engaged; a couple who has been together for nine years, but aren’t married, and the parents of both women who have been married for 35 years. Snappy dialogue, good-looking actors and nice performances by Debra Jo Rupp (of “That ’70s Show”) and Kurt Fuller (you’ll recognize him when you see him) as the parents.

Again, the pilot made me laugh, which is a good sign, but these kind of shows don’t stand out of the crowd based on being funny. So look for them to use their beautiful actors on magazine covers and whatnot to try to raise awareness. Doomed.

Running Wilde, Tuesdays 8:30/9:30

Awful. I like Will Arnett, I loved “Arrested Development” and maybe the show will get better, but the pilot was unwatchable. I mean that. I didn’t finish it. I stuck it out long enough to see Arnett’s character “rescue” a tribe about to be displaced by his father’s oil company by putting them up in a hotel in whatever city this takes place in.

The day of the premier, Arnett tweeted that he’d be willing to bribe anyone with a Neilsen box to watch the pilot. That may be what it takes to save this turkey. One major criticism is that I don’t buy that Keri Russell’s character likes Arnett’s. He’s just not likable. The addition of David Cross may help, but only marginally.

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, IFC, Fridays, 10p

It’s a fish-out-of-water comedy about Todd Margaret (David Cross) who is a temp at a company in the States. The new boss (Will Arnett) mistakenly thinks he’s a shark, so he sends him to London to sell energy drinks. Antics ensue. Margaret is a pathetic case and the pilot had very little in terms of funny and a great deal in terms of uncomfortable situations.

Neither Cross nor Arnett can carry a series. Now they co-star on each others. Pass.

Outsourced, NBC, Thursdays, 8:30/9:30

A wacky comedy about an American novelty company that outsources its call center to India and the fish-out-of-water white guy sent to manage them. The pilot was okay. There is potential there, but the subject is grating. I’m expecting some interesting things from Diedrich Bader as another white guy manager for a different call center.

I have no idea how this show is viewed in the Indian community and my knowledge of the culture is completely dependent on my years of working in a motel combined with a reading of Son of the Circus. So don’t go by me. There are some stock characters here: the assistant who is sabotaging the boss, the shy girl who must have some sort of inner strength, the beautiful woman who will be the romantic interest for a short time, the young guy who is obsessed with American cinema. Time will tell. My feelings about the show aren’t very strong one way or the other.

Hawaii Five-O, CBS, Mondays, 9/10p

A reboot of the classic drama. I like the chemistry between McGarrett and Dano. I’m liking the action sequences and the rest of the cast. This could be a great series. The opening of the pilot dealt with McGarrett’s father being murdered while McGarrett listened on the phone. When the credits rolled, I saw that Jean Smart was on the series. My first thought was “Oh, she must be playing McGarrett’s mom. This is going to dissolve into Burn Notice.”

Instead, she plays the governor of Hawaii. Being governor of Hawaii must be a really cool job because you get to say lines like “Find him, and get him the hell off my island.” Worth watching for the great scenery and to watch the relationship between the team grow.

Boardwalk Empire, HBO, Sundays 9/10p

The series that might single-handedly bring back the merkin. “Boardwalk Empire” is going to be Steve Buscemi’s signature role, from here on out. This is his Henry Hill, his Tony Montana, his Don Corleone. He’s working it . . . hard. And that’s great. I like him and it’s fun to see him play a heavy, rather than the guy the cops pick up to flip on the real bad guy.

It’s a period piece set in Atlantic City in 1920 between the enactment of prohibition and the 19th Amendment. Buscemi plays Enoch Thompson, the city treasurer and the guy who runs the illegal booze in and out of Atlantic City. As period pieces go, it tries a little hard. 1920s east coast gangster slang is a little heavy handed anyway. It’s like trying to figure out cockney rhyming slang, context doesn’t always help.

HBO announced that it will get a second season based on the numbers from the premier, which were the highest since “Deadwood,” which got canceled after two seasons because “Rome” was so expensive to shoot (and was canceled after two seasons). It will probably share the same fate as “Carnivale” which was outstanding, but inaccessible and therefore canceled after (wait for it) two seasons. I fully expect Clancy Brown to show up in this series at some point.

There is more to come, if I get motivated enough to watch some more new shows. This Fall TV season has not excited me like in previous years. I don’t know if that’s a reflection on me or them.

Let’s say them.

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Some quick thoughts . . .

First off, I’m leaving Murfreesboro for East Tennessee next month. It’s a bittersweet departure as I’ve been here for my entire adult life, but I’m going to be reunited with my family, start a new job and begin to build a new life. It’s exciting and scary and I look forward to it. In the short-term, it means this blog may go dark for a while. In the long-term, it means more frequent updating. So, patience, please.

How many of you remember last year when President Obama addressed the nation’s school children, offering them a non-political message about personal responsibility, staying in school, working hard and achieving their goals? Now, how many of you remember the right-wing freak out that the president was going to socialize our kids via the air waves? One of the most vocal critics of the speech was chairman of the Florida Republican Party Jim Greer. He said:

“As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology. The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the President justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other President, is not only infuriating, but goes against beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power.”

Ridiculous on its face, I know, but Greer said it and much more. Of course, Obama’s speech didn’t mention any of the policies Greer cited and as far as I can tell, no children were turned socialist by the speech. Soon, President Obama will give another back-to-school speech to America’s school children. Greer has once again spoken out, but this time to apologize for his statement last year and to call out the racists in the Republican Party.

In the year since I issued a prepared statement regarding President Obama speaking to the nation’s school children, I have learned a great deal about the party I so deeply loved and served. Unfortunately, I found that many within the GOP have racist views and I apologize to the President for my opposition to his speech last year and my efforts to placate the extremists who dominate our Party today. My children and I look forward to the President’s speech.

What’s changed? Aside from the obvious lack of an army of socialized school children, I mean? For one, Greer is no longer chair of the Florida GOP. In fact, he’s under investigation, having been charged with six counts of fraud, theft and money laundering for creating a company to skim revenues from the GOP fundraising efforts in Florida.

I keep checking the calendar to make sure I haven’t slipped through a wormhole into the dark ages. On November 6, Southbend, Ind. will be home to a Catholic Conference on Geocentrism. Titled Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was Right, this conference will consist of a group of speakers taking the position that the Earth sits still in space and that the universe revolves around it.

I don’t know where to begin. At least they’re not trying to say the world is flat, though there will be some young Earther talk. What I don’t understand is the point. Are they saying all Catholics must adhere to the idea of geocentrism? Why would that make a difference one way or the other to your religion? Why hang your hat on something that is demonstrably disprovable?

At least they won’t be burning holy books.

In Knoxville, a lesbian couple were the victims of a hate crime. For the last five years they’ve been harassed and threatened by one of their neighbors. The word “queers” was spray painted on their garage. They’ve received death threats. Now, someone has burned their house to the ground.

I ask you, who would you rather have living in your community? A lesbian couple in a 15-year relationship or a violent, dangerous bigot who thinks nothing of burning someone’s house down? I really don’t get it. Why is there so much hate for homosexuals?

While my friends and family are all excited about football season, fall means a very different thing to me. New TV shows, returning old TV shows and my annual pity party when shows I like get canceled. Look for an update soon, or follow my media consumption on Miso.

DragonCon 2010

Well it is over now and time to start the countdown until the next one. This was my third trip to DragonCon, held each Labor Day weekend in Atlanta. My buddies and I drove down on Thursday morning in hopes of avoiding the 4.5 hours it took to get through the TicketMaster line last year.

While it was a little better (2.5 hours), it was still a brutal experience. I’m told that they’re switching to a bar code system next year, which should speed things along.

I knew I’d arrived when I heard someone complaining about their hotel room using the phrase “There’s no fracking way I’m going to stay on the 28th floor.”

That night, Greg treated us to dinner at Fire of Brazil, a Brazilian steak house near the hotel. This was my kind of restaurant. Our server gave us the rundown: there’s a card at your place setting with a red side and a green side. When the green side is showing, men will bring skewers of meat to your table and cut you off as much as you like. That night, there were 17 different varieties.

So, I ate a lot. Pork loin? Bring it. New York Strip? Yuuuuuup. Lamb? Why not? It just kept coming. About the time I felt like I couldn’t eat any more, a man comes by and says “bacon-wrapped sirloin?” Hrrrmm. Okay, maybe just a taste. I stumbled back to the hotel for an evening of people watching and groaning.

That night Dollie’s sister Megan and her husband Jeremy came down to meet up and do a little gawking before their trip to Boston the next day. It’s always good to see them.

Hung out at the bar with Grant and his buddies. We were talking briefly about adaptations of Terry Pratchett novels when two young women walking by the table and froze mid step. “Are you talking about Discworld?” one of them asked. I replied that we were and suddenly I had two new besties. For about an hour anyway.

A little later, Grant and I got into an argument over who could stay up later than the other. He had the advantage of youth, but I worked my way through college on the third shift, so I was pretty confident. I recall getting to bed about 4:30 a.m. The next day, we both had photos of the other sacked out. I call it a tie.

Friday was the official start of the convention and since nothing really opened until 1 p.m., I decided to donate blood. They have a drive every year and the t-shirts are always cool. This year the staff got into the spirit by either wearing fangs or dressing as Merlott’s waitresses.

My buddy Greg managed to get to the “I Dream of Jeanie” panel to see Barbara Eden, Larry Hagman and Bill Daley. It was one of the only panels to begin before 1, so I didn’t see it on the incredibly complicated schedule. He said it was great.

I spoke with Billy West and Phil Lamaar about how great “Futurama” is. I told Robert Beltran that my wife is a big fan of his work in “Big Love” but I preferred his work on “Billy Jack.” I got to say hi to the actors who play Vork and Zabu in “The Guild.”

Friday night we sat at the Pulse Lounge Loft and people watched. The costumes were great this year and I saw several friends from previous cons. At one point Greg wanted me to demonstrate how Twitter works. I pulled out the iPad and sent this Tweet:

Interested in a good time? My buddy Greg Is pouring drinks at the loft in The Pulse. I love #DragonCon

Followed shortly by:

Greg will give me $5 for every lady that comes up to him in the Pulse Lounge (Marriott) and says Hello Greg. Help me out here #dragoncon

After that, it was just a matter of time and letting the bartender know who to point to when someone asked for Greg. We had a couple of takers pretty quickly. Later that evening I received an email from the blood bank folks saying my blood had high cholesterol. “Your cholesterol may be affected if you recently had a high-fat, high-cholesterol meal.” You mean like the all-meat dinner at the Fire of Brazil?

Saturday morning I got up early to meet my friend Eveliene. She and I graduated high school together. She was an exchange student from Holland and moved to Atlanta about a year and a half ago. She works for a Dutch airline and is helping with transitions since they were bought out by Delta. We sat on Peachtree and watched the DragonCon parade before saying goodbye.

That afternoon my buddies and I were joined by Joel for the Venture Bros. panel. The line was out the door and around the block, but being old hands at this, we waited inside until the end of the line and filed in. We knew we would be in the back anyway, no reason to stand between the Klingons and one of 5,000 Sookie Stackhouses at the con.

After the panel I went back up to the room to get prepped for Mr. Freeze. I’ve been working on the costume for a couple of weeks, but this would be the first time to put it all on. I thought it came out well. You can see photos here. With Greg as Bane, George in his “First Contact” dress Star Fleet uniform and myself as Mr. Freeze, we meandered out way to the Marriott.

I’ve no idea what celebrity must be like. I can’t imagine being hounded by photographers or fans. But I got a small taste of it at DragonCon. Once we got to the hotel lobby, I was stopped every few feet to pose for photos. It was incredible. As I walked around people commented on the costume. At one point the official con photographers pulled me to a corner and took photos using their studio set up. The local ABC affiliate shot me for b-roll about their DragonCon story.

The two biggest groups of fans I encountered were children and black people. The children recognized me and wanted to say hello. Their parents encouraged photos and I was happy to oblige. I would say a third of the people wanting to pose with me were black women. I can’t explain it, I’m just observing and reporting.

The strangest encounter came late Saturday night. After wandering around with dark lenses and no eyeglasses and a big plastic bucket on my head, I was having trouble figuring out where I was. I wandered into the Hyatt bar where I was warmly greeted by a bunch of people in costume. One couple, a Batman and Batgirl combo, asked me to sit with them. We talked a bit and they bought a few rounds. They asked me why I chose Mr. Freeze (bald guy options: Lex Luthor, Vulture, Mr. Freeze, Professor X), where I was from and how long I’ve been doing this.

Turns out by “this” they didn’t mean the convention. I’d wandered into a polyamory gathering. These were swingers and Batman/Batgirl wanted to know if I was up for coming up to their room to play. I declined using one of my favorite Homer Simpson lines: “Look, I’m flattered, maybe even a little curious, but I have to go.”

When my buddies asked why I’d declined, I cited marriage and fidelity, but I also didn’t know these people at all. Suppose their idea of “play” was to have Batman and Batgirl tie up Mr. Freeze and beat the hell out of him. That’s not a good look. So I continued to wander around and pose for pictures.

One thing I thought was pretty entertaining was the revenge of the nerds going on outside the hotels. Labor Day weekend is a big college football weekend in Atlanta. Some fans manage to stay in the DragonCon hotels, but others just like to come down and gawk and the pretty ladies in their skimpy outfits. These people were unmercifully harassed by gangs of Jokers, Spider-men, Star Fleet officers, Browncoats, vampires and elves. It was, in a word, beautiful.

The next morning we set off pretty early. As old men, we can’t take the entire con anymore. I have very few complaints, but there is one worth mentioning:

Elevators: They are hard to come by at DragonCon. a 20-minute wait for a spot on one of the elevators is not unheard of. I walked up the ten flights to my room more than once while I was there. This situation is even harder for the people who need scooters to get around. A couple of them went to the very bottom floor (the Motor Lobby) and waiting for the elevators. Ideally, you only get on an elevator to go down if you’re actually going down. But people were getting on the down elevator and waiting for it to go up. That meant the down elevator would open up and no one would get off, despite the fact that it was on the lowest floor. This angered the scooter people and prompted one of my walks up to the 10th floor.