Musings @musicandmeaning.com

Die Zeit, die ist ein sonderbar Ding.
"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Archive for the 'Television' category

Amidst the advertisements and brain-numbing material, sometimes there’s a glimmer.


Sunday, 5 November 2006

Not-so-random tidbits

I know it’s been a while since I wrote something here that’s not about WordPress, so here are a few tidbits — some more random than others — covering the past few months.

Nov(el) in Nov(ember). One thing or another has kept me from writing more often. I’ve been busy with projects; also I recently sustained a finger sprain, but it’s healing and I’m thankful that it’s not as painful now. If you’ve visited this site in the past few days, you may have noticed the image in the sidebar; I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month a.k.a. NaNoWriMo, where individual writers aim to draft a novel, written from the first of November until the end of the 30th. Although I’ve known about the “event” for a while, this is my first year as a participant. And although the official goal to “win” is 50,000 words, I’ll be happy if I reach 35,000. I’m looking at this as a good opportunity (i.e. excuse) to sit down and just write as much as I can, and then use it as a basis to extend and revise.

I still think of it as WBE. For the first time in what seems like a very long time, I got to hear most of Weekend Becomes Eclectic The A Track live today (Anne Litt even played from Richard Buckner‘s new album again). A belated congrats to Anne Litt and Howard Franklin on the birth of their first child this summer. (I was going to mention it in the last post along with the “first WordPress baby” news, but decided to save it until now.) If you tuned in during in the summer, you know that Tricia Halloran filled in during Litt’s maternity leave. If you tuned in recently, you know that The A Track has been cut down from three to two hours (3 p.m. to 5 p.m. PT, still on Saturdays and Sundays), while New Ground and Cafe L.A. have been expanded to three hours (IIRC, Cafe L.A. used to be a three-hour show years ago). I wasn’t around to hear the on-air announcements of the slot change, so I’m not sure what (if any) reasons were given, but I’m going to guess it had something to do with her new duties as programming director for KCRWmusic.com (I searched for press releases but there are absolutely none listed now). In any case, I was very disappointed by the news of two fewer hours of her show on the weekends, but I’ll definitely take four hours as opposed to zero. Much success to Litt in her new endeavors.

New and improved, sort of. As for KCRW’s new site, I can’t say I see a whole lot of front-end design improvements. I certainly prefer the new menus, which make it easier to navigate compared to the older site. Finding the right page was sometimes a little difficult and it wasn’t until I really familiarized myself with the (older) site that I figured out where to go for certain things. However, the new color scheme is a bit confusing at first, especially the inconsistent link colors (maybe it’s just my eyes, but the green footer link color on the purpley background is very unexpected after reading elsewhere on the site, and has a rather negative contrast effect that forces my eyes to look away). The site is still in the proverbial construction stage, but it’s a little frustrating to look for information such as the latest press releases and not find anything. Anyway, I’ve always had qualms about KCRW’s site, whatever the version, over the years. A long time ago, I participated in a survey to provide feedback and opinions about the site (the version that was just replaced) and I had a lot to say. Obviously, I still have a lot to say (for another example, why are the playlists no longer searchable?), but since the new site is not quite “finished” yet, I’ll wait and see what happens.

Not so spudly. Television-wise, I haven’t seen a lot of new shows, but I did catch the first three or four episodes of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Perhaps my standards for Aaron Sorkin are just too high, but I wasn’t that impressed. His other shows were just so good right out of the gate (excluding the laugh track on early Sports Night); this one seems to be weighed down by too much of a self-conscious, editorializing, in-joke atmosphere in dialogue and story, and so far, a lack of focus with all of the characters it has to handle. It may be a case of a slow start and bad marketing; the promos always bill the show as a sitcom by featuring one-liners and banter, and it is so not a comedy in the traditional TV sense (remind you of ABC’s trouble marketing the aforementioned Sports Night?). Being that it’s Sorkin and Schlamme, though, and because I like Sarah Paulson‘s character, I will probably watch again to see if the show warms up and if the writers actually give Brad Whitford something to do besides stand around wearing reading glasses.

As far as the rest of TV, there aren’t any shows that have really hooked me. I saw NBC’s other behind-the-scenes-of-a-comedy, 30 Rock (which really is a comedy show); it looked promising, but I haven’t made it a point to watch. I didn’t really get into the first couple of Heroes, I stopped watching Gilmore Girls sometime last season (or was it the one before that), there’s no more West Wing, I never really got into Lost or Veronica Mars after their first years, and I stopped watching Law & Order sometime after the last-last ADA change. I don’t really enjoy any of the other cop/procedural shows: none of the other Law & Order brands or any of the CSI incarnations (I used to watch CSI original, but that was a long time ago), and sometimes I’ve seen Without a Trace or Cold Case, but very rarely. Is there some show that I’m missing but shouldn’t be? Should I give Grey’s Anatomy another try? I’ve seen maybe two or three episodes of that, but didn’t get invested. And before someone suggests Battlestar Galactica: I don’t have cable. I watch cable shows once a lot of their seasons are out on DVD.

Now, Voyager. Instead of current shows, I’ve been watching favorite series of years past: recently I watched/rewatched a bunch of old Star Trek: Voyager episodes. Voyager is the second of Star Trek’s stepchild series (i.e. not created by Gene Roddenberry); it was less sci-fi/Trek than the uniforms made you believe, and had its share of forgettable and/or recycled writing, lack of character development (Tuvok and Chakotay really got short shrift), and way too many time travel resets (count me as one of the many people disappointed by the direction of the final season and the series finale. Grrr, Berman and Braga). However, (surprisingly?) I still find myself rather fond of the show overall. I suppose it’s because I don’t think of it as Roddenberry Trek, but as a spin-off that happens to use Trek as a vehicle. My favorite character is the Doctor, who, of all the characters, had the best writing to support him over the course of the series. And I may be in the minority, but I think Seven, Naomi Wildman and Icheb brought an interesting sensibility to the show (although I could have done without “Collective,” and the writers featured Seven too often when they didn’t know how to write for the other characters). With that in mind, it won’t be a surprise to learn that I’m prone to enjoy Voyager‘s better character-driven stories, whether they are thoughtful, fun, or amusing (or unintentionally amusing). Give me those over the Q episodes or the pointless Borg fights, any day.

And what can I say, I love Jerry Goldsmith‘s theme for Voyager. I remember when I first saw the series premiere back in 1995 (hard to believe it was over a decade ago!), I felt lukewarm toward the actual episode but was captivated and moved by the theme music. The magic lies in the wonderful arrangement and strong performances — it’s engaging all the way through. I particularly enjoy hearing the splendid trumpet solos, the timpani, and the lovely accompaniment to the melody, including the the lower strings in the B theme. I’ve heard the music I-don’t-know-how-many times, and I have not tired of it yet. Sometimes I fast-forward through the opening title sequence, but more often than not, I listen to, if not watch, the whole thing; and I always listen to the version of the theme over the end credits. (I’m not sure what orchestra Goldsmith conducted for the sync recordings; I’ll have to pick up the appropriate CD and find out, because the performances are really quite good, especially the brass. I recently heard a rendition by a different orchestra; the tempo was slower and most dishearteningly, there were no cymbals! Completely unacceptable. There’s also an “extended” version of the theme on one of the soundtrack CDs; unfortunately, I think the additional measures interrupt rather than enhance the original theme.)

Well, this update should tide you over until the next one, which may be after NaNoWriMo is over. Until then, stay well. If you’re in the U.S., don’t forget to vote on Tuesday. I mailed in my ballot early, and I’m hoping for big changes from the midterms; on another note, I’m also looking forward to the cease of campaign calls. Don’t people know that calling about some candidate or measure during dinner hours doesn’t make a good impression?


Tuesday, 23 May 2006

We’ll always have ‘The Jackal’

I’m still here. And for those who asked/wondered, yes, I watched the series finale of The West Wing. I actually watched most of the final episodes this season, and thought that one of the best scenes by far was the one between C.J. and Toby in the second-to-last show. (Everything about it crackled, except when C.J. said she wanted to make a chicken like that…I’d think she’d know already — after all, she offered to cook Christmas dinner for Leo once.)

Back to the final episode, though. It made me wistful — it made me remember just how much I loved the characters — the old band, to borrow a phrase. I won’t quibble about it or how the series changed (now, anyway), but I will say that it was interesting to see how everything got wrapped up.

My favorite moments:

President Bartlet walking through the west wing and thanking the staff. It was especially nice to see some of the past recurring characters, e.g. Ed and Larry, Ginger, and Nancy (with an amusing inside-joke greeting to her mother — Nancy was played by Renée Estevez, Martin Sheen’s daughter). One of the strengths of the earlier seasons of the show was how well the minor characters were written.

C.J. finding herself walking into the empty press briefing room, and then standing at the podium. I didn’t expect it — it was a nice touch.

Over winter, I got a chance to watch the season 1 DVDs — what a treat. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over six years already. They were engaging, but it was a more than a little bittersweet seeing John Spencer on screen — he will be missed (I watched the DVDs just a few weeks after he died). Such great writing, and the conflicts used to be countered with such fun. “Take This Sabbath Day” and “In Excelsis Deo” rank up there with some of the best television ever created. Thanks to DVDs and digital magic, they’ll live on. And of course, we’ll always have “The Jackal.”

Posted at 10:32 pm | Filed under Television | 2 replies »

Sunday, 27 March 2005

X-Files fans rejoice

Well, sort of. In a way. Okay, this post has very little to do with The X-Files except for the David Duchovny connection (but I will mention something about the show in a sec). He wrote and directed his first feature film, House of D, which premieres next month. And for the promo push, Duchovny is writing a blog (Flash required). It’s interesting to see his writing style and his typing style (very few caps; single paragraphs), especially since — as hardcore XF fans will remember — he pursued a PhD in English literature before leaving Yale for an acting career.

I’ve been out of the entertainment industry news loop for years — I remember reading something about him writing his first movie, but didn’t think about it after that. Anyway, I just now happened to catch the link to his blog while on the Blogger site — his name was at the top of the list of "blogs of note." I figured it was a fan site, but nope, it’s really him. Check it out. There are audio posts, too, although I haven’t listened to them as of yet.

(Note: Clicking on the orange banner for the movie at the top of his blog leads to the wrong site! Oops. I wonder how long it’ll be before someone fixes that.)

Based on the two X-Files episodes that Duchovny wrote and directed ("The Unnatural" is still one of my favorites), I’ll definitely put his movie on my to-watch list. (I haven’t done much XF web browsing in a really long time, but Fox TV has apparently replaced its excellent resource at x-files.com with product pages for the DVDs.)

Okay, here’s the news about The X-Files: in Duchovny’s entry for March 23rd, he says at the very end:

speaking of x files, i think we’re getting very close to getting a start date on the x2. my guess is we’ll be filming early next year.

Cool. I know absolutely nothing about the sequel other than that, but I hope it’s better than the first movie. That reminds me, though…the last two seasons of the series…weren’t my faves. I wonder what the story will be about? I’m already a little sad that the Lone Gunmen won’t be in it. Who knows? Maybe they could be.

Posted at 6:42 am | Filed under Film, Television |  

Tuesday, 25 January 2005

Google video search

Google Video Search: searches transcriptions of television programs.

I tried to think of a distinctive episode title of a TV show. I entered "tunguska" into the search box. What does it mean when the first distinctive title I can think of is of an X-Files episode I haven’t seen in over eight years?

The search results: nothing. Then I actually read the text of the Google video search page: "Search recent TV programs online." No wonder. ;-)

So then I searched for only+connect and the first result? The ER episode from last week, natch. (No results for the same-titled episode of Joan of Arcadia from September. That’s not recent enough, I guess.)

Clicking on the page for the episode currently displays five screen caps and portions of the transcription at various points of the show that include the words "only" or "connect" — and this is the funny part: the transcription includes commercials! So in this case, three of the results are from adverts.

Yes, I searched for "Forster." It brought up a mention from 24‘s episode "Day 4: 12:00 Noon-1:00PM"…and no, it’s not a reference to E. M. (Turns out that it’s a part of a company name, apparently.)

I also searched for one of my pet peeves regarding (written) dialogue. [rant] I hear this bit of dialogue all the time on TV and in movies, and it’s so repetitive now that it’s distracting and takes me out of the story. Please, writers, I know people really talk like that in real life, but could you please avoid scripting it? If not a moratorium, then how about a "use sparingly" rule? [/rant] :-)

The search results display images, but as of now, no video files. It’s an interesting new tool, in beta. I’m not sure how it works; the About page does not specify the transcriptions’ sources, but they may be the same ones used for closed captioning (which is not always accurate). The page does say that there’s currently a limited amount of programming available online, beginning from "late December 2004." I don’t know if I’d use it often.

(Found out about video.google.com from Metafilter.)

Posted at 1:49 am | Filed under Tech/geek, Television |  

Monday, 24 January 2005

The TV season of Forster

It must be the television season of E. M. Forster. In September, I wrote about Forster being immortalized in the pop culture that is prime-time television (specifically, Joan of Arcadia and Gilmore Girls), and apparently it’s not over: last week’s new episode of ER was titled "Only Connect" and opened with Abby (Maura Tierney) waking up in the morning; then her eyes drift to a nearby book titled Howards End! (In case you’re new to this blog, this site, and/or me, Howards End (written by Forster) is my favorite novel. It’s also one of my favorite films, but that’s a different topic.)

Admittedly, I haven’t been watching ER regularly in a while, but of all the characters to be reading Forster, it’s my favorite character from the current cast. Abby just got even cooler by a gazillion points. (And to top it off, her clock radio alarm was set to NPR’s Morning Edition! If she ever starts listening to Richard Buckner, I may go into shock.)

Mucho thanks to madbard for taking the time to relay the happy news to me. :-) I missed the show on Thursday, but I’ll try to keep an eye out and catch the repeat.

I’m still waiting for the first TV show to mention E. M. Forster’s name (positively would be good).

Posted at 11:39 pm | Filed under Books, literature, Television |  

Sunday, 14 November 2004

Pynchon on The Simpsons

Tonight is the season premiere of The Simpsons — normally I wouldn’t pay special attention to it, but in this episode, novelist Thomas Pynchon makes a guest appearance. We get to hear his voice. His on-screen face, on the other hand, will be covered by a paper bag.

This is the kind of thing where I can’t help but think of the late professor Brian Stonehill, a Pynchon scholar and media studies advocate, and wish he were still around to witness this. I hope he can watch and be amused by the episode, wherever he is.

Posted at 2:23 pm | Filed under Television |  

Wednesday, 12 May 2004

West Wing tonight

Spoilers for tonight’s episode, and major speculation on my part. Don’t read the rest of this post if you don’t want to be spoiled at all!

I was reading the TV listings on Yahoo this a.m.: "The president considers military options when a congressional fact-finding team’s vehicle is bombed during their investigation of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict." Based on this, the preview from last last week, and a previous episode, my knee-jerk reaction was: "Nooo! Don’t kill off Andie!" Because, Congressman Andie Wyatt is supposed to be on the fact-finding trip (there was a big deal about it with Toby), and if she’s in the car when it blows up, then there’s probably no chance of her surviving. I know of no other spoilers (nor do I want to seek them out to see if my guess is true), but if this is indeed true, I don’t know what to think. I’ll have to e-mail Bird York and tell her how much I’m going to miss her on the show — she’s perhaps my favorite recurring character on the show. <Sniff> First Mrs Landingham, now maybe Andie Wyatt? Why target the strong women characters? (Have you also noticed how the senior White House assistants save Donna, e.g. Ginger and Bonnie, have pretty much disappeared in the past year?) Besides the fact that it causes serious upset within the White House and particularly for Toby, I would imagine…why???

(Okay. Not just Andie, but Donna and Fitz too?? Geez.)

Of course, the car bomb could be a red herring, but it being the second-to-last episode of the season, I’m not holding my breath.

Update, 13 May ’04: Oh no, they killed off Fitzwallace! Remember when the show received so much press before it even premiered, about having no minorities in the Bartlet administration? And how the character of Charlie was added as a result of protests over its all-white cast? What a way to go, killing off one of the very few minority characters on the show.

So, my fear about Andie Wyatt was false. Heck, she hardly had any screen time. We got to see her from afar on a TV monitor in the communications bullpen, and later saying one (or two) lines to Donna.

Since I hadn’t seen the previous new episode in its entirety, I hadn’t realized that Josh had sent Donna on the trip. She certainly got a lot of screen time (this seemed to be "her" episode), and although I dread saying this, I still wouldn’t be surprised if this is all a setup for Moloney leaving.

That aside, however, I still didn’t enjoy the writing of the episode. I’ve grown to dislike the repetitive use of the "tease with a dramatic moment, then rewind 24 hours (or whatever) and show what led up to it" device. I don’t hate the device itself, I just think it’s been overused on The West Wing now. I think ultimately, it was a way to get the viewer to watch a very political episode about the Middle East crisis (as this episode was airing, I flipped the channel to news, and saw the latest on bombs and people killed — a chillingly true juxtaposition of reality and fiction), which many people may not want to watch in a fictional show and idealized White House administration. So, showing Donna as a victim of a car bomb, and getting the viewer invested in her story (and the Irish journalist’s place in it: I’m still at a loss as to why there weren’t more journalists there, e.g. American journalists who are seemingly everywhere else on the show), was a way to hold interest through an underlying story about a very charged issue.

Whatever happens to Donna after this, I’m pretty certain that we’re witnessing the show changing drastically. For the better? Well, let’s put it this way: I still think that the golden years of the show were 1999-2001, and with a few exceptions, its later episodes have never been able to live up to their predecessors. Madbard is right: the love just isn’t there anymore.

Posted at 5:08 am | Filed under Television | 3 replies »

Thursday, 29 April 2004

Last night’s West Wing

"What the he** was that??"

That was my very eloquent reaction to the episode, and largely based on the out-of-left-field conversation between Donna and C.J. I watched maybe the last two-thirds of the episode, so I had to guess what happened during the first couple of acts, but it didn’t seem strong, and rehashed an idea that was used previously.

But, seriously, what the heck was up with Donna and C.J.? I really don’t understand why they were sniping at each other. I mean, I understand why, in the context of the story given in the episode, but not why it had to be written at all, in the context of the series.

If you’re going to use a lockdown as a dramatic device, then you’re going to have to choose carefully the characters that get stuck with each other. From what I can tell, in this episode the chosen scenarios were:

  1. The President, Charlie, Debbie Fiderer and Ron Butterfield
  2. Abby and Leo
  3. Josh and a Secret Service agent? I’m not sure who that water-case-buying woman was
  4. Toby and Will
  5. Donna and C.J.

Now, based on the limited amount of story I saw, the only interesting conversations were that of Abby and Leo, and Donna and C.J. The rest, seriously, I have no idea what purpose they served except that scenario #1 demonstrated a little bit of who the characters were. One of the best lines was when Debbie said re: Charlie, something along the lines of, "He’s not gonna forgive himself." Josh and the agent: pretty useless material. Toby and Will: All this proved to me was that nobody has figured out how to write Josh Malina‘s character. It’s really too bad — what a waste of a character that was actually good when he first got the job at the White House.

But, Donna and C.J. was interesting because I had no idea what the heck it was about, and why it turned out to be the most pivotal conversation for the episode, and perhaps, the show (which it and of itself illustrates why the episode was weak). Why were Donna and C.J. sucker-punching each other? Was there something that preluded it in the first act?

The only rational thing I could think of was that maybe Janel Moloney wants to leave the show, and the writers need to write her out somehow. Or, maybe she doesn’t want to leave the show, and the writers need to write her out somehow because someone does want her to leave the show … if either of those theories are true, then the setup of her exit is an undeserved and heartless way to let her go. So I truly hope they’re false theories.

I’m all for drama based on characters and their flaws and strengths. But a few weeks ago, I watched the show (after I hadn’t seen it in a while), and I kept thinking, "Where are the characters I know and love? They’ve been replaced by dopplegangers who seem to act and think differently." Then I tune in last night, and, wow … welcome to Doppleganger C.J. and Doppleganger Donna.

Maybe I should just stop watching altogether, because since Sorkin left last season, I really haven’t enjoyed the few episodes I’ve seen — they just made me more puzzled and frustrated, thanks especially to how the characters were written. If you can recommend any West Wing episode, and I mean any episode this season that could hold a candle to season 1 — heck, I’ll even settle for season 2 or 3 — I’d love to know.

Posted at 2:53 am | Filed under Television | 2 replies »

Thursday, 22 January 2004

Various tidbits

Just a number of random and not-so-random thoughts.

Over the holidays, I missed a bunch of Charlie Rose shows that I wanted to watch. So far, I’ve listened to the 8 Kbps Real(bad)Audio streams of his interviews with Cate Blanchett (30 Dec. 2003) and Naomi Watts (19 Nov. 2003) in the show audio archives. If you’re a Blanchett fan, I highly recommend catching this latest interview with her. Not that I’ve seen/heard many, but it’s by far the best Cate Blanchett interview I’ve heard, including the one on Fresh Air. And of the ones I’ve witnessed, I think it’s one of the best interviews that Rose has conducted, with an actor or not. I hope it airs on television again soon. The one with Watts isn’t bad, but I don’t know if I’d listen to it again at 8 kbps… Another decent Rose interview is of Nicole Kidman on 27 Dec. 2002 (also in the audio archives), when she was doing press for The Hours. Hmm. I just noticed that I’ve mentioned only Australian actresses in this paragraph…

I can’t believe we’re already in an election year. The presidential candidates seem to be cancelling each other out. Who’s it going to be? It’s still early to tell, despite what polls say. Please, please, vote this year. If you think your vote doesn’t make a difference, let me say two words: Florida, 2000.

Music still helps keep me sane. I think taping Anne Litt‘s show is one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. These days she’s pretty good about playing Alison Krauss (and she played the Sting song from Cold Mountain…and I still think that "The Scarlet Tide" is a better song), and Norah Jones‘ new song "Sunrise" as well as Clem Snide.

A few weeks ago, I watched Howards End for the first time in at least four years, and was amazed by how much it still moves me, and how beautiful and lonely and powerful it is. It must have been my ninth or tenth time watching the movie, but I still noticed new things. They really don’t make movies like it anymore, and it was made in 1991. I picked up E. M. Forster‘s novel and read bits and pieces. I have a terrible memory when it comes to books, ironically, and so even if I’ve read and studied a book intensely, a year or two later I will have forgotten much of it. So I will re-read, and I will remember some things, but I will rediscover, as "new" many more things. Howards End is an excellent book, and still my favorite. It’s interesting that something I loved as a teenager, I still love so strongly — I guess some things don’t change.


Thursday, 4 December 2003

Waiting for Foyle

Back in February I talked a bit about Foyle’s War, which was featured on PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre. The series was/is filmed on location in the historic locale of Hastings in Sussex, England, and tonight I happened to revisit the city’s official site to see if there was any news about the second season of the show (or "series" as they say over yonder). To my delight, there’s an update saying that the Foyle’s War folks shot the second batch of episodes over the summer.

I really enjoyed the first series: the stories were filled with drama, history, mystery, humor and good constructs of pathos, logos and ethos (or as Brian Stonehill, one of my professors, used to say: heart, smarts and sparkle), not to mention beautiful cinematography and talented acting. I’ve been keeping a watch out for the next series for a while now. Perhaps the quality of the current television season has been so awful that I’m overly craving a good drama, but after seeing a photo of the clapper slate for Foyle’s War II — I can’t wait to see the new episodes. (Yes, I’m such a media geek.) Although the second series is airing in Britain now, those of us Stateside will have to be patient; PBS probably won’t air them until next year — and I’m not even sure if it will make this season, which is the final one sponsored by ExxonMobil. But I definitely am looking forward to Michael Kitchen and Co. in series II.

Posted at 1:05 am | Filed under Television |  

Thursday, 16 October 2003

Go underdogs

"Ouch," Cubs.

Go Sox.

Yank the Yanks.

‘Grats Fish on their wish…

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to watch Game 7 of BOS vs. NYY because I have class at the same time.

And now for something completely different: Yo-Yo Ma is a guest on the Charlie Rose show tonight. Don’t miss it.

Posted at 4:19 pm | Filed under Baseball, sports, Television |