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Things That We Can Do Without in January…or February

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 7:41 AM
January is a long, cold, dark, and cruel month. I’ve called it the dark night of the soul, and for me, it ever and always will be. Everybody always tells me how much they hate February, but February has longer days, and every now and then, you get those wonderful thaws where you just barely feel the warmth of the sun. The icicles are dripping off roofs, and spring feels like it’s around the corner.

What we don’t need in January is negativity, but…lists aren’t necessarily negative if they spread mirth, delight, and a feeling of commonality. If you feel the way I do, that’s great, and if you don’t, turn the page:

1. Sarah Palin: The shooting was bad enough. It was horrific. Did you have to cover yourself by using terms like, “blood libel?” What’s wrong with you? Stop giving women politicians a bad name and be a TV personality. It’s good money and you can be as dippy as you want.

2. Horoscopes: O.k., get ready for this. Astrology isn’t real; it’s fun, but not real. Yes, I am the epitome of a Gemini, but no one cares. Now, I’m a Taurus? Oh, gee, it just goes to prove that astrology isn’t real. Thank you for that amazing non-story when millions of people are starving to death, dying of AIDS, or from wars. Feel the shame!

3. American Idol: I can’t stand Simon Cowell, but he has my undying respect for getting out. He should have done it two years ago. American Idol has done more to ruin popular music and television than Coca-Cola and Sprite. Would Ella Fitzgerald have won American Idol? I don’t think so. Ignore it and it may finally go away.

4. Reality Shows: Are we getting sick of them yet?

5. Demographics: The largest generation is getting older, there are fewer kids, and how does society pay for seniors’ health care and pensions? It’s all bad news. Maybe I will get used to eating cat food in my retirement. I can have dog food on Sundays.

6. China: Bad news always comes out of China. Things like melamine don’t belong in milk; lead does not belong in toys. A guy wins a Nobel Peace Prize, and you don’t let him out? May we please get some good news from China already? Peace in Afghanistan would be really nice too.

7. Automated telephone systems: Your call is important to us. Please wait an hour and a half, and the next available representative will not be able to answer your question. Too late, our offices just closed.

8. People in the United States who compare President Obama to Hitler: Read your history, please! Hate him, revile him, sneer at him, but don’t compare him to the man who gave organized slaughter a name. It just makes you look ignorant.

9. Wack-jobs who picket funerals with disgusting signs: Your grandparents knew about manners and maybe compassion. You don’t.

10. Columnists who make lists.

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Comedy Central and BBC Canada – A Continent of Reruns

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 9:16 PM in ,
How many of you think that the Gomery Report is funny? How many of you can even remember the scandal that it investigated? You’d know if you watched This Hour Has 22 Minutes on Monday, January 17th. No, it wasn’t doing a goof on Canadian History; the show itself was Canadian history, a good six years old. Political humour isn’t funny unless it’s current, but Comedy Central Canada just keeps playing reruns of This Hour Has 22 Minutes because even though it’s old and stale, it’s Canadian.

Good comedy almost always has an element of surprise. After all, a joke isn’t funny if you know the punch line. A pie in the face isn’t funny if you can see that pie coming from a long way off. Similarly, if you’ve seen the same stand-up comics do the same routines over and over again on Just for Laughs, it’s just not funny anymore. How many times can you watch Shaun Majumder do the most embarrassing shtick that couldn’t get a laugh from a college kid who’s had a few beers? It wasn’t funny the first time and it gets increasingly pathetic with each watching. A comic, who I’ve already seen, has to be particularly funny to get a laugh out of me after I’ve watched one of his pathetically un-funny introductions or eulogies to each comic’s routine. Yet I watch in hope, hope that one day I’ll see something new that will make me laugh.

While I applaud the mission of the CRTC to maintain Canadian content so that Canadian artists can be employed and that the country’s media reflects Canadian culture, there ought to be a law against the number of times a show can be broadcasted because it’s Canadian and cheap.

Speaking of Canadian content, if I’m paying for BBC in Canada, why can’t I see British programming? It makes no sense. When I watch ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox, I see American shows and not reruns of a bunch of Canadian home improvement shows just so the station can meet its Canadian content requirements. A little research answered this question. BBC Canada is owned both by a Toronto company, Alliance Atlantis (80%) and BBC Worldwide (20%), therefore the CRTC considers BBC Canada to be a Canadian network. (Please don’t try to read that sentence aloud – you may hurt your mouth.) As a Canadian company, they must show a certain quota of Canadian shows, and that’s why you get a lot of Debbie Travis and Holmes on Homes.

Much of cable TV, particularly during the day, is made up of reruns. I can accept this to a certain degree, but when primetime rolls around, I would like to get what I pay for if I have to pay for television. If I watch a network that advertises itself as a network of reruns – Déjà Vu, for example – I’m aware that I’m paying for old shows. When I pay for a specialty channel, I hope to watch new shows. As a fan of British television, it is extremely disappointing to pay for a channel called BBC and find that it’s a home and garden channel in disguise.


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Back to the 70’s with Barney Miller

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 10:13 AM

Every day when I get home from work, tired and battle-weary from the tensions of the day, when I turn to television as a sedative to get my mind off my troubles, there’s one show on in the late afternoon that can elicit a chuckle out of me and make me smile. That TV show is Barney Miller which is on the Déjà View channel from 4:00-5:00.

It’s been at least 30 years since I watched this series so it’s brand new to me and I’m falling back in love with it. For those of you who weren’t around in the 70’s when this show was a hit series, the action almost always takes place in the squad room of the 12th precinct located in lower Manhattan. Barney Miller (Hal Linden) is the captain of the precinct and his detectives are an eccentric group. Miller puts up with them with a long-suffering patience and humour and is the show’s straight man. Detective Fish (Abe Vigoda) is nearing retirement, has a daily war with his digestive system and his deadpan reaction to criminals and colleagues is hilarious. Max Gail plays Wojo, a young detective who is insecure and sometimes seems to have more brawn than brains. Detective Harris sports an Afro, is always neatly groomed, is writing a novel and is perpetually on the lookout for a better apartment. Yemana (Jack Soo) constantly has his nose in a racing form. The inimitable Steve Landesburg (who unfortunately passed away last month) also has a killer deadpan delivery as Detective Dietrich who is the squad trivia know-it-all.

In each episode, the detectives deal with mostly small-time crooks or people in conflict with one another and try to solve problems while working out of an ancient cockroach infested building while being perpetually underfunded for the police work that they are trying to do. As people who have to put up with each other day-in and day-out, their relationships with one another and with their spouses makes for some very funny situations. In addition, when you watch the show, there are many faces that you will recognize from other TV shows and many well-known character actors. Trying to remember who they are and what they’ve been in is part of the fun.

The series had an eight year run and while the dialogue and characters are a bit stiff in the first year, the writers and actors seemed to warm up to the characters that they were portraying to the point that when you watch the show, it seems very much as if you are watching a comic play, particularly because the show is shot in video rather than film. Over the years, the show increasingly added dramatic elements as well as comedy. For example, toward the end of the series, Miller has marital difficulties as his wife has increasing difficulties dealing with her husband’s job.

Some people may find the show somewhat politically incorrect as it was filmed about the same time as All in the Family. For instance, Barney Miller’s treatment of female cops and female victims may make you wince now and again. Otherwise, it’s a very funny show with superb character actors and great scripts.


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Living in the Big Apple Just Isn’t Easy; Neither is Following Shows on HBO Canada

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 10:47 AM

One of my friends has been urging me to watch the HBO series, Bored to Death, which has been running at odd times on HBO. Strangely enough, it’s impossible to find out when a program is on HBO Canada unless you go on the Internet and check on HBO’s web site. In the case of this show, here is what you find: Jan. 8 -1:30 AM; Jan. 17 - 3:30 P.M.; Jan.24 - 3:30 PM.

This seems like craziness to me. Unless I am a virtuoso in the use of a VCR or have a handy dandy digital recorder, what’s the point in telling me to watch the show? I’m new to HBO, so I can only think that the show, Boardwalk Empire with Steve Buscemi is on all the time, and HBO shows a few other shows every now and then. Don’t get me wrong, I love Steve Buscemi in all the Coen Brothers films that he’s in – the dude abides, and all that – but HBO seems to replay certain series day and night and then they just go away!

The other night, I watched Bored to Death for the second time and actually laughed out loud in a few places. The premise of the show runs something like this: Jonathan Ames is a struggling writer in New York City whose girlfriend has broken up with him. His writing career is not going very well either, so inspired by a detective novel, he advertises on Craig’s List as an unlicensed private eye and clumsily solves mysteries while hanging out with his neurotic comic book writing best friend, Ray (Zach Galifianakis) and George (Ted Danson of Cheers fame) who is a marijuana smoking man about town and editor of a New York City magazine. This makes life more bearable and interesting.

I found the first show that I watched tedious, but the second episode that I watched was quite funny. It is definitely a character driven series, and though some of the situations are impossibly ridiculous, that’s where the comedy comes from. Ted Danson definitely steals scenes. He’s such a natural for this part, and his character seems to have no problem turning lemons into lemonade without mussing a hair on his beautifully coiffed head. Mind you, if you are offended by vulgar language and drug using characters, this show is definitely not for you.

Right after Bored to Death came How to Make It in America though that sequence may never be repeated on HBO again; it’s all about catching shows when you can. Another vulgarity warning for this show that is about yet another struggling young man in New York City. Ben (Bryan Greenberg) is an aspiring designer who is friends with Cam (Victor Rasuk), a free spirit and would-be future mogul. Cam takes it upon himself to get Ben “back in the game” after his breakup with girlfriend Rachel, now dating a successful hotelier. The show is all about the hustle to get money for projects and to network with the right people.

I loved how this show was shot and the script moved quickly. I was also surprised to find the characters more likeable than I expected from the beginning of the show. The two friends meet obstacle after obstacle together, and you can’t help but sympathize with Ben, who can’t even begin to get over his girlfriend, and is perpetually unlucky in love.


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