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I'm dreaming still of who we were.
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Archive for the 'Television' category

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


Friday, 16 May 2003

Shaken, not stirred. And shaken a lot.

A few weeks ago in the comments/reply to BJ for an entry about The West Wing, I wrote, “It looks like Sorkin isn’t too far from sending all of his established stories and characters over the edge, and then having the new producers and writers deal with the fallout next season.”

Well madbard…dang, I had no idea that Sorkin would actually push Barlet over the edge too. It’s as if he really is burning all bridges, laughing maniacally and saying “Hey new writers…take that! The West Wing you once knew is now kaput. Rebuild at your own risk…by the way, good luck without me.”

It was odd seeing John Goodman appear suddenly. I think the last time I saw him on TV was when he was Eric Close’s character’s original physical body on “Now and Again” a couple of years ago. And as an aside, it was also good on a continuity level to see Harry Groener (a.k.a. former mayor of Sunnydale on Buffy) back as the Secretary of Agriculture.

From a writing/Sorkin-is-about-to-leave standpoint, it’s interesting but I wasn’t shocked, really. Sorkin has a history of pulling out all sorts of “What if…” scenarios and resulting consequences dictated by the U.S. Constitution. He’s shaped past dilemmas that rarely occur in real life, if ever (like this season’s finale) and culls his ideas from the more rarely needed (but imperative) sections of the Constitution. Not a bad way to learn about our government’s fail safes and quirks, really. I don’t know how accurate it is, of course, not to mention realistic, but it’s a natural move for Sorkin to sort of blow everything out of the water without, well, blowing everything completely out of the water. When Hoynes resigned, and even when Zoey was kidnapped, I knew the tough part wouldn’t be over for the President and the West Wing. It was all a build-up to something, and I thought fleetingly that Bartlet could resign…but then how could the show continue? Admittedly, I did not know that the President could, in effect, temporarily “resign.” But leave it to Sorkin to take advantage of this probably not-so-common knowledge in the majority of viewers and use it as his last plot device.

I just hope they don’t kill off Zoey Bartlet. And I wonder how many more interesting, Constitutional aces-from-sleeves the writers will have left. (I’m sure Sorkin and any other diligent writer of the show has the Constitution/Amendments/Declaration of Independence/ important federal law documents all parsed, highlighted and otherwise marked for possible story ideas.)

But please, don’t let this be where West Wing jumped the shark.

Posted at 5:53 pm | Filed under Television | 2 replies »

Monday, 5 May 2003

And the winner for best shark jumping goes to…

I’m trying to be positive about Alias — I really am. But since the mega Super Bowl episode in January, where creator J. J. Abrams essentially wiped the slate clean for his show by destroying SD-6 and killing off a loveable supporting character, the subsequent episodes have lacked luster. No longer did I find myself eagerly anticipating the next new chapter of heroine Sydney Bristow and her cohorts. I even stopped (gasp) taping the show, and last week, for the first time, I didn’t even pay full attention to the episode — for some parts of the show, I worked on other stuff as the television stayed on in the room, and I turned around only when things seemed interesting.

So, after hearing and reading about the hoopla surrounding the big surprise of this season’s two-hour finale (which aired last night): of Abrams once again redefining the series, I succumbed. I’d stayed away from spoilers, and sat down and watched the show, and yes, even taped it, hoping that some of that old Alias magic would show up.

The first hour was okay — nothing really tremendous, really. Basically it was a big setup for the second hour. (BTW, that Ford Focus commercial within the show was really an eye-roller.) But most of the last half hour redeemed the episode. When Irena leaped over the roof — that whole confrontation was well done. When Will figured out the truth about FauxFrancie, I thought, "Finally! Now we’re getting somewhere!" and of course noticed that there were only five minutes left — so, cliffhanger must be coming soon. When Vaughn dropped off Sydney, I knew what was coming. I mean, he chose that night of all nights not to go into the house with her? Please. And while I’m on the topic of nitpicks, why exactly was Will at Francie and Syd’s? He was supposed to go to the CIA safehouse…although with the safety history of that place on the show, "safehouse" is an oxymoron…oh, and also based on the show history, if the CIA is transporting anything, they really need to have more than one vehicle guarding the transport… And before I forget: Syd has to find Will in her bathtub? The tub is getting such a bad rap.

So, yes, finally, the showdown between Syd and FauxFrancie happens, and it really did not disappoint in terms of hold-your-breath intensity. (Everything about this episode, especially the FauxFrancie scenes, proclaims just why Alias is not a show for kids.)

But then (Abrams, you scoundrel you), there’s Sydney with no scars or signs of a fight on her, lying dazed and confused in the streets of Hong Kong. At this point I was practically begging the TV, "Please, please don’t pull a Dallas and have it all be a bad dream…Okay, that’s not the case, thank goodness." But then Abrams pulls the rug out and yes, surprise, it may just as well be a dream.

So, it’s been three years. So, Vaughn is married and apparently out of the CIA. So, we really have no falutin’ idea what’s happened and how Syd ended up where she ended up.

The problem I have is this: Abrams isn’t just "redefining" the series when he does this kind of rug pulling — he’s basically creating new series. First (run-on sentences ahead), it was Alias with Syd, a grad student/spy grieving the murder of her fiance (whose body she found in her bathtub), and learning that her entire life has been a complete lie. (BTW, did you notice that if you turn the letter "d" upside down, it becomes a "p" and then Syd’s name becomes an anagram for "spy"? Yes, that is what I would call mental thumb-twiddling…)

Second, it was Alias: Family Reunion (We’ll Take Our Portrait Later) with Syd the double agent (who apparently is still a grad student but is never seen at school) dealing with her seriously cracked spy family and, as a double agent, still trying to take down the fanatic Sloane who killed her fiance and ruined her family, all the while still falling in love with a man whose father was killed by her own enemy spy mother (who by the way has miraculously turned herself in to the CIA).

Then, in mid-season, it was Alias, But Not Really, Because SD-6 Tumbled Easily Like a Squishy Layer Cake and Sydney No Longer Has to Use an Alias with Syd who spends the next few episodes doing more globe-trotting (that seems to be the only consistent thing on the show…) to find Sloane and stop him, and not realizing that her best friend has been murdered, replaced by a genetic mutant allied with Sloane and is brainwashing her other best friend, whose life Syd had saved and is now working for the CIA. And of course I neglected to mention that Syd’s longtime partner tries to deal with the truth of his own life having been a lie, his wife gets murdered, Sloane’s wife (but Syd’s mother-figure friend) helped staged her own kidnapping but gets shot accidentally by Dixon, Syd’s mother escapes from the CIA, and Syd somehow managed to keep up with all of her schoolwork, sight unseen, and graduate from her graduate program.

So, what’s going to be the theme of the Alias show for next season? Since Abrams skipped three years, and Syd hasn’t a clue (nor do we) as to what happened, obviously the next few episodes need to backtrack and explain that period of time. It’s like we’ve seen one of those spoiler teasers, where the teaser of an episode shows a scene that hasn’t happened yet, and then after the opening credits roll, we get a "72 hours prior" and see how we get to that scene. Except this time, the teaser is that Syd is seriously confused, quite a lot of time has elapsed, and Vaughn is married to someone else. I seriously hope that next season will not open with "3 years prior" and will not be Alias: The Quest to Restore Sydney’s Memory. I realize that the audience is supposed to identify with Syd, because she’s just as bewildered about the whole three years thing as we are. But I feel like Abrams did more than pull out a rug…he yanked my chain.

Although I love cliffhangers and drama and plot development — just look at the first season for some truly exciting episodes — I somehow feel that he’s toying with his audience just because he can. I don’t know if he’s trying to redefine television, but getting the audience invested in a certain story and certain characters of that story, and then changing the foundation of that story — twice in one season — it’s just difficult to process. I wonder if I’m the only one who feels this way, but as time passed after the Super Bowl episode aired, I kept looking back pondered whether the series really jumped the shark* then. And here it is nearly four months later, and my instinct is telling me that this is yet another shark jumping incident, if that’s even possible in one series, let alone one season.

As an optimist, I keep hoping that the show will improve, and that the beautifully scripted and shot original Alias I grew to love would emerge again. It could be that this season was simply a victim of the sophomore curse, but with the two drastic — and boy were they ever drastic — plot developments, my optimism for this show is getting tougher to bide. The series was once was a slick show that had an action facade, espionage and noir themes but always the strong element of familial discord and hints of reconciliation. But with all of these so-called plot twists, it’s looking more and more like an expensive, prime-time, outlandish soap opera wrapped in a thriller setting. And for this fan of continuity and good writing, it’s reminding me why I don’t watch soap operas.

The capsule summary: no, I didn’t really like this season’s finale, and unless Abrams has something ingenious planned to work out of the "years lost" chain yank, this very well may be the episode where Alias made its second shark jump. The first season’s finale was leagues better, in terms of suspense and excitement and purpose within the story at hand.

Parting thoughts: Farewell to Merrin Dungey, who has the distinction of "dying" twice on the show, once in each of the shark jumping episodes. I hope she appears next season, as part of the "let’s help Syd remember" story, but I’m guessing that’s improbable.

Sorry for the spiel on this, and the show in general. I suppose I really wanted to enjoy the finale — and wished that it would provide some hope for the future quality of the show. As mentioned, my interest in it had waned significantly since January; and with the news of Aaron Sorkin and Tommy Schlamme leaving The West Wing after this season (see previous blog), my current core of favorite television shows has really suffered a huge blow. Please, please let Gilmore Girls remain interesting, even with the change from Rory in high school to college.

* Unfamiliar with the term "jump the shark"? Check out the first couple of questions in the FAQ from jumptheshark.com.

Posted at 1:25 am | Filed under Television | 2 replies »

Thursday, 1 May 2003

West Wing, why?

It’s official: Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme are leaving The West Wing. Reasons for the sudden move, however, are as of yet unknown.

At least when Chris Carter left The X-Files, he’d already established a strong set of writers and producers. But Sorkin leaving TWW — his writing is the foundation of the show. Hasn’t he written practically every single episode — if not story, then teleplay? Without him writing, what the heck’s gonna happen?

This is a huge loss for the show, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire cast and crew just let out a gasp of astonishment — and trepidation — upon hearing the news. It’s as if the very successful Aaron Sorkin Repertory Theater Company has just found out that it can no longer perform the works of Aaron Sorkin.

At least when Sports Night was cancelled, it meant no one else could mess with the show. Now with Sorkin and Schlamme’s departures, The West Wing will become The West Wing Desperately Trying To Be The Same Show It Was.

I was going to just post a little about "Life on Mars" — last night’s episode — when I read this bit of news. I was going to just write that my favorite part of the episode last night (which, incidentally was above average for this season) was when Donna talks to the bird (was it a pigeon? dove?) outside the window, and later tells Josh not to scare it away. Yeah, it had absolutely nothing to do with the main (or secondary) plot, and it could have been a really pointless and dumb scene, but Janel Moloney (and Bradley Whitford) simply sold it. Who would have thought the line "You’re going to hurt your beak" could be so endearing? Plus it was nice to get a Josh & Donna exchange reminiscent of old.

I hope the small, character-driven scenes like that stay in the show. Even without Sorkin, I hope the writing can be fresh next season, and not resort to a forced and formulaic attempt at his style. At this very moment, a vast majority of people probably doubt the future of the series beyond 2004. This may well mean the beginning of the end. But if the remaining and new producers can harness some excellent screenwriters — they won’t be Sorkin, but if they know the characters extremely well and can write dramatic dialogue…

Well. What can I say? 2003-04 will be a significant season for the series, undoubtedly.

Posted at 6:03 pm | Filed under Television | 3 replies »

Tuesday, 22 April 2003

Musically inclined

On KCRW, Anne Litt subbed for Nic Harcourt on Morning Becomes Eclectic yesterday, but unfortunately I only heard the last, oh ten minutes. Guess I’ll have to catch it in the archives.

BTW Litt was away both days last last weekend (Cathy Tamkin and Kevin Lincoln filled in), but was back this past weekend. In the few minutes that I was able to listen two weeks ago, I tuned in right before Lincoln played a Kathleen Edwards tune — I’d never heard her on WBE before, so that was neat. Edwards was Richard Buckner‘s opening act for a long stretch of his last U.S. tour (he’s playing Europe right now), so I saw her perform solo when they stopped locally last December, and talked to her for a bit after the show. She was back in L.A. a few days ago but I didn’t get to see her this time around.

Other NPR shows: On the last Wha’dya Know, one of the audience quiz contestants turned out to be a well-travelled folky singer/songwriter called Lis Harvey, with whom I wasn’t familiar. She apparently was just a big fan of the show, and didn’t resort to any self-promotion on the air, which was refreshingly odd. When I visited the notmuch.com site, her name was linked to her site — that’s really the only reason why I even knew about her site. Haven’t listened to any of her music yet.

And although I’ve mentioned Says You pretty often here, I don’t think I’ve ever commented specifically about the music on that show. Simply put: fabulous. I love pretty much every single group that’s been on the show: the Dactyls (all the incarnations of the Dactyls — including the Neo Dactyls and the Mighty Dactyls), Tom Eaton & Pick 3 (sp?) and Plu Perfect & the Past Participles. They all have their own styles and repertoires and they’re all acoustic. Personally I miss Plu’s many homages to music from the Roaring Twenties, but I’ve noticed that theme recently now and again.

BTW, for all Says You fans (hi madbard), here’s an article about the show (and its Boston University alumni) that you may find of interest.

Yet another Gilmore Girls reference: I was watching a tape of season 3 episodes and noticed (for the first time) that in the dance marathon ep from last fall, one of the classic tunes that got played happened to be "These Foolish Things" — which is one of my favorites. Too bad it was an all-instrumental dance. It would’ve been nice if a singer had crooned along on some of the songs, e.g. "These Foolish Things." Why not be even more authentic to the swing dance band era?

Closer to home: I finally updated the "What’s in my CD player" list, after a five-month hiatus. There’s no review for the Peggy Lee/Benny Goodman album yet, but when I do add some notes I’ll post an update here.


Wednesday, 16 April 2003

Rory’s going to Yale

In the world of the Gilmores, that is.

Well, it makes sense. I’m guessing she will want to live in a dorm, and Paris will choose Yale as well. So many questions…I wonder how the whole Lorelai/Rory interactions will work out now. On the phone and on weekends? Will the grand-Gilmores still want their Friday dinners with Rory, now that she’ll be leaving Chilton? New Haven is on the other end of the state. What about Lane and her band? Goodbye, Dean and Jess. Perhaps also to Louise and Madeline…and Mr Medina. And goodbye, Chilton uniforms.

And since the show was set at Yale earlier this season, with Pomona College standing in for the actual Ivy Leaguer, I wonder if there will be any more location shoots at PC, if even for bumper/establishment shots. Although, I suppose they could do that with the real Yale. I imagine that whatever happens, it won’t include regular shooting at PC (I would be surprised, since PC is so choosy about giving permission to film). So, out of necessity or not, the producers/location managers will forget that Yale previously looked like Marston Quad, and start over in a completely different location — which will of course dismay all of the continuity-obsessed fans of the show. I’ll have to ask my Yalie friend Kitty for what artistic liberties the sets reveal.

So begins a new chapter of the Gilmore saga in a few months. And yes, I’d like to remain spoiler-free for the rest of the goodbye-filled episodes this season, thankyouverymuch.

If you want my comments on last night’s episode: it was all right. Had its moments. Plot-wise, it was definitely a transitional episode, though, and in some scenes was too obviously so.

But you know…I wouldn’t mind having a "Babette ate oatmeal" T-shirt. Even a "Rory’s going to Yale!" shirt would be nifty, although I would prefer one that said "Rory went to Pomona!" (which is true in the real world, even if it was for just a day). Too bad Kirk wasn’t selling those.

Posted at 1:23 am | Filed under Television |  

Sunday, 2 March 2003

Sunday tele notes

Tonight’s Gilmore Girls repeat (the first season’s finale, "Love, Daisies and Troubadours"): A

A great episode. Trademark GG banter, healthy conflicts, healthy resolutions, funny moments, warm + fuzzy moments, lots and lots of flowers and Grant Lee Phillips acting + singing (and doing well at both)! Good stuff all around.

Tonight’s new Alias episode, ironically titled "A Dark Turn": B+ for the first ¾ (best moment: Marshall implanting the tracking device…"You’re tough"); actually, B+ up until Irina gets into the limo, then after that a big F for the rest.

Why the low grade? Maybe I have high standards for the show, but the ending was completely unsurprising. I was expecting it to happen, and it’s no fun when what you think is going to happen actually happens. Maybe I have high standards for this show, because typically what I think is going to happen doesn’t. In this case, the ending was truly disappointing. I actually said "Lame" when the limo passed through the tunnel. I mean, come on, as a TV viewer I immediately suspected there might be a decoy, but Jack and the Delta Force don’t have a clue? Please. Maybe they thought it was too contrived: "That can’t be a second limo. It would be too lame for that to happen on this show."

It wasn’t surprising that Irina was Sloane’s ally — the last-minute, I-may-never-have-a-chance-to-say-this mom routine between her and Sydney was too suspicious, and her getting Jack to remove the tracking bug sealed it for me. Her escape was a plot point waiting to happen. But the whole bit with the Post-Its decoy and the limo decoy… that was just too lame. IMO it lessened Irina’s skill and manipulation. She didn’t have to do much to pull a fast one on everyone, since they obviously didn’t know the difference between Post-Its and a manuscript and never bothered to check to see if she was hiding the manuscript on her.

Unfortunately, this week I taped Alias but not GG. Ah well…

P.S. When Irina took the book out of the glass case, did anyone else think, "Okay, where’s the replacement sand bag? " ;-)

Posted at 11:53 pm | Filed under Television | 2 replies »

Thursday, 27 February 2003

Tele notes

Well, on the heels of my high praise for last week’s episode of The West Wing, last night’s show ("Red Haven’s on Fire") seemed to define the word anti-climactic.

Sure, there were a few memorable moments, but overall the story felt forced and the whole hour tried too hard to be good, if that makes sense. The best part: probably Amy "saving" the First Lady. That and C.J. singing to Toby. Amy and the wayward candle was cute initially, but really, are the writers trying to turn her into a female Josh? I truly hope not. IMO the candle/fire bit would have worked much better had it happened to Toby in a similar situation.

The continuing saga of Will and the interns-as-emergency-staff-writers has staled considerably and needs a new direction or needs to be dropped…please give Joshua Malina something better. I realize that the show is not all about clever retorts and other witty banter, but the presentation of some ideas are getting long-winded and heavy-handed.

All that said, the episode still brilliantly outshone Ed‘s most unbelievably predictable and unimaginative episode, which aired the previous hour. Please, Aaron Sorkin, rescue Sabrina Lloyd from that series.

* * *

On the subject of last Sunday’s programming…I missed some parts of Alias but from what I did see, the episode was just average. I did tape Foyle’s War and although it perhaps wasn’t the best or most original story of the four episodes thus far, it wasn’t bad. I definitely look forward to future episodes, but I suppose we’ll all have to wait at least a year or so until the next batch.

Before I go…farewell Mr. Rogers.

Posted at 7:33 pm | Filed under Television |  

Thursday, 20 February 2003

The magic 47

Just a quick note to comment on last night’s episode of The West Wing, "California 47th"…

It was the best and most wholly well-written episode of the show I’ve seen all season…maybe even the best and most wholly well-written episode in the past two seasons. Props to the story writers, Lauren Schmidt and Paula Yoo, director Vincent Misiano and of course Aaron Sorkin, whose teleplay was the most effective one I’ve seen in a while. A truly ensemble effort, with some really great lines given to a number of characters, top-notch talent, especially in the return guest roles, and even some tongue-in-cheek silliness to provide comic relief. Not flawless, perhaps, but still quite effective nonetheless. Reminded me of the series’ classic debut year (1999-2000), because the show kept picking up momentum and when the final fade happened, I found myself wanting to see more. I haven’t enjoyed a WW episode this much in a long time. I can’t remember the last really good ensemble episode…maybe "The Stackhouse Filibuster" from the second season.

Most memorable scene: I’ll go with serious this time, and say the one with the extremely unpleasant and deluded couple in the hotel bar. I can see how some people might consider the scene a bit overdramatic, but I thought it was very well played and shot. It certainly made me really uncomfortable, as it should have done. Another powerful serious scene was Leo realizing, from Fitz’s update, what the sudden acceleration of genocide meant.

Favorite line: So hard to choose…there really were many. If I had to select one now, I’d go with the one that made me laugh for at least ten seconds. It was Andie referring to Toby: "Sorry girls, I saw him first." Yeah, it’s the punch line to an entire scene, so the humor is tough to translate here. But it’s a good thing I actually taped the episode (I haven’t done that in a while), because otherwise I would have missed what Donna and Josh were talking about while I was laughing.

P.S. And of course it was nice to see the number 47 in the title. :-)

P.P.S. For the third (fourth?) week in a row, seeing Joshua Malina on The West Wing right after Sabrina Lloyd on Ed made me smile.

Posted at 12:48 am | Filed under Television | 4 replies »

Monday, 17 February 2003

If only Nielsen viewers cared about subtlety

Alias wasn’t on over the weekend, so I got to save some videotape and watched the third episode of Foyle’s War. The sort-of miniseries stars the wonderful Michael Kitchen (heading a great cast) and was created and written by Anthony Horowitz, who should be very familiar to PBS devotees (Poirot). It’s based on a mystery/detective story premise, but the plots’ meatier content revolves more around social and cultural observations of a side of WW2-era Britain not dramatized often — all presented in an interesting package. I’m not sure of the stories’ historical accuracy, but the shows are enough to get my attention. Coincidentally, I had just seen the film The Remains of the Day again (the seventh time? eighth?) and re-read parts of Kazuo Ishiguro‘s novel (see the "Literature" section) a few weeks ago, so the theme of pre- and post-WW2 politics in England had already propelled its way forward in my consciousness.

There’s one episode left, airing this Sunday as the feature of Masterpiece Theatre. I recommend catching it, on tape at least. I hadn’t really liked what I’d seen of the recent features, but two weeks ago I ended up taping Alias and watching Foyle instead. Foyle is perhaps the opposite of Alias. It isn’t exactly ratings bonanza fare: it’s not attention-grabbing in an obvious way, nor eye- or mind-bending. Instead, the show is quiet and can be subtle, yet surprisingly effective, much like its title character. I hope there’ll be more episodes in the future.

[Your Ad Here] Masterpiece Theatre: If you haven’t heard already, ExxonMobil announced in December 2002 that it will withdraw its funding from Masterpiece Theatre after the 2003-04 season. The corporation stopped sponsoring Mystery! in 1996 (back then it was still Mobil). (If you didn’t watch the show before then…you know the mostly black-and-white Edward Gorey-based opening and ending title sequences of Mystery! now? And the very prominent red umbrella? That umbrella was not there until Mobil left and Travelers Insurance began sponsoring the show…Travelers used the red umbrella in its logo. But although Travelers is no longer a sponsor — Looksmart is the latest underwriter — its red umbrella is still in the titles!)

Anyway, back to Masterpiece Theatre. What a shame to end over 30 years of a staple media sponsorship on public television. I do hope that there will be a “next” sponsor…not the stuttered sponsorships of Mystery since Mobil left. But in the age of corporate labeling (I really hope Comiskey Park will not be renamed U.S. Cellular Field), PBS is so desperate for underwriting that it is actually giving 30-second adverts to its show sponsors. Did you notice the proliferation of car spots before and after the shows recently? Sigh.

Posted at 9:55 pm | Filed under Television |  

Thursday, 14 November 2002

The best things in life are free

    ’A'-list music: David Gray‘s new album (A New Day at Midnight) sounds pretty good, from the few tracks I’ve heard. A bit more down-tempo than the last, but still very much DG. Also don’t forget Richard Buckner‘s new album (Impasse) and EP (Impasse-ette) are available now! Buckner is also touring as I type this, so be sure to catch him if you can.

     Lost & found, sorta: I’ve been listening to a lot of old songs as well recently, thanks to a few projects I’ve been working on. Aside from Buckner, my CD player right now has a CD of tunes from Peggy Lee early in her career. There are so many great non-standard standards out there — tunes you don’t hear very much these days. A songwriter whose work fits in this category (unfortunately) is one of my favorites, Ray Henderson. He wrote and/or co-wrote some great songs — some of my all-time faves — that may sound a little dated, but are still fun to listen to and sing: "If I Had a Talking Picture of You," "The Best Things in Life Are Free," "You’re the Cream in my Coffee" and "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue." In any case, I’ve thought of reviving some tunes that I personally like but are hardly ever performed these days (except by traditionalist bands). Not just Ray Henderson songs, but there are so many others out there. I’d arrange them very simply — guitars, vocals, and maybe have a friend or two play along if they don’t mind — and not get worried if the arrangements are anachronistic for the songs.

     Just because: Last week’s Says You was one of the funniest ever. I’m not sure if it was a repeat, but it sounded pretty new. I kept cracking up, thanks mostly to Tony Kahn‘s "obsession" with Paula Lyons‘ poker tell and later her turning the table on him.

     On the TV front, I am really enjoying the first-season repeats of Gilmore Girls — I really think that it is the strongest season of the show to date. The writing was just fabulous — what more can I say? I hope this season picks up a little. Alias is consistently fun and still the king of cliffhanger series.

Posted at 12:00 am | Filed under Music, Radio, NPR, etc., Television |  

Wednesday, 15 May 2002

Music is king, again

Not a lot to report, but since the events of last month, I’ve been really fortunate to have some truly outstanding music around. The newest member of my To Buy list is Zero 7‘s album, Simple Things (which has been getting a lot of airplay on KCRW, thank goodness; I’ve also heard a couple of tunes from the album — and other heavily-played-by-KCRW tunes — on the CBS series CSI). I also dug out some CDs I hadn’t heard in a while, and remembered why I fell in love with them in the first place: especially David Gray‘s White Ladder, and Emmylou HarrisWrecking Ball. And of course, Richard Buckner still has a couple of his own CDs in my player, as has been the case for over a year now. Just the other day, I couldn’t get over how talented Buckner is, and how powerful his albums are. I know I’ve been raving about him ever since I heard "Faithful Shooter" back in the fall of 2000, but if you’ve been reading and still haven’t listened to him — please, please do yourself a favor and check out his music. It’s amazing just how much he’s influenced my own music appreciation, performance and composition in the past year.

Concert recommendations: Thanks to my friend Jason, I know that British songweaver Beth Orton is playing the >House of Blues in Hollywood on Tuesday, 28 May (KCRW presents the show)… and I mentioned this before, but next month, Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart return to McCabe’s on Friday, 21 June. Of course, I’d be thrilled to attend either show, but I’m not sure yet.

     Since I’ve mentioned CSI: Did anyone catch the pilot for the spin-off series, CSI: Miami-Dade? It ran as last week’s episode, and introduced the Miami unit, with David Caruso heading the group — and including Emily Procter, who plays the recurring Ainsley Hayes on The West Wing (I hope Ainsley doesn’t get written out of the show permanently, but alas, TV is so unpredictable sometimes). It actually wasn’t a bad pilot. But I still think one of the best pilots I’ve ever seen is the one for Alias, which was very impressive. Its season finale wasn’t bad either. I credit J. J. Abrams for completing a very well-written and -plotted debut season of the series, and for finding Jennifer Garner to play the lead role. If you hadn’t already guessed from my list of recommended TV shows, I do think that Alias was my favorite show for the 2001-02 season, beating out Gilmore Girls and even The West Wing.

One last television-related note: The X-Files finally ends its historic run this week. The series was such a huge part of my life back in my college days, and influenced and sometimes even overwhelmed me — thanks to its innovative and expressive writing and acting. Remember, at the height of its power, the show won some major awards. I have mixed feelings about its conclusion, but I definitely agree that this is the time for it to end. I actually think an earlier farewell would have benefited the franchise, but from what I could tell, this last season wasn’t so bad (not as bad as the eighth season, I think). The series finale is a two-hour send-off called, not surprisingly, "The Truth," which features the return of Mulder on screen. I hope David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson close it out with a story that is worth the integrity of the series as a whole. Chris Carter and The X-Files really did change the landscape of network television, and yeah, it all happened on Fox. Who would have thought?

Woe is e-mail: If you haven’t read this space for a while, and you’re wondering why you haven’t heard from me lately, it might be because of a recent problem I experienced with a hard disk. Basically, if you sent me e-mail anytime before 14 April, and haven’t heard from me since then, please send me a line. Thanks. And thanks again to everyone who helped me out by sending copies of relevant messages.

Quote for the time being:

Faith pours from your walls, drowning your calls;
I’ve tried to hear; you’re not near.
Remembering
When I saw your face
Shining my way — pure timing.
Now I’ve fallen in deep, slow silent sleep;
It’s killing me, I’m dying…
To put a little sunshine in your life

– from Badly Drawn Boy’s "The Shining" on The Hour of Bewilderbeast

Posted at 12:00 am | Filed under Music, Television |