Bill O’Reilly never ceases to be a source of constant amazement and pity for me. He calls himself an independent but continues to push the talking points of the Bush White House every chance he gets. He calls reporters like Helen Thomas, who have devoted their lives to reporting the facts of all administrations “anti-American”. And let’s not forget the little problem with his adulterous relationship with Andrea Mackris that he swept under the rug for millions of dollars.

It’s the holiday season again and Bill-O is back plugging his fictitious “War on Christmas” agenda that he’s been making up for the past few years. He even had the audacity to recently declare “victory” against the so-called “secular-progressives”. As if you can declare victory in a war that you yourself created out of whole cloth.

But now, even Bill-O has reached a new low. Often times, people can stomach someone with opposing views because they stick to their principals. President Bush is a great example of this phenomena. Although he tends to do things that are not in the best interest of this country, many conservatives back him because he doesn’t waver. He’s their rock as it were. So you can imagine why I literally laughed out loud when Bill O’Reilly exempted the national book selling chain, Barnes & Nobel, from his made-up war on Christmas. Despite Barnes & Nobel being one of the “worst offenders” of using the term “holiday” instead of “Christmas” in their marketing material, this is what O’Reilly told Carrie Gordon Earll of Focus on the Family on a recent broadcast:

“And I think a lot of people feel the same way, which is why we reversed the trend, but I’m not going to come down hard on Barnes & Noble. I think, you know, Dick Sporting Goods, you know, they may want to rethink this.”

Why would Bill give pinheads like Barnes & Nobel a free pass on this issue? Because they sell a ton of his books! How can he be expected to back a boycott of the store, when Barnes & Nobel helps line Bill’s pockets? I mean, ‘comon he’s gotta help recoup the cost of that Mackris settlement somehow, right?

Today I gladly add “hypocrite” to the long list of Bill’s character flaws. Happy Holidays Bill!

UPDATE: Now you can own the O’Reilly vs. Mackris lawsuit in the form of classical music! Has hard as it may be to believe, composer Igor Keller has spent 9 months creating a modern opera based on the actual text of the lawsuit. It’s a stunning and poignant piece of work. Head on over and check out some clips, and if you like it, buy it. I can think of nothing that would make Bill happier.

Boyhood Crush Confessions

December 6, 2007

We all go through it. That time in our young lives when suddenly members of the opposite sex aren’t so “icky”, and are actually kinda neat. We develop crushes on those we see around us, and like so many boys my age, many of my first crushes came from television. Inspired by a series of tweets between friends, I give you the confessions of my first infatuations. I’m willing to bet that if you were a boy growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, then at least one of these leading ladies made your heart go pitter-patter too.

Being a geek, I grew up watching lots of sci-fi stuff, and as such, you may notice some running themes. There always seemed to be lots of cute girls who were getting lost in space or saving the universe. Needless to say I was doomed from the get-go. I hope you enjoy this tiny peek inside my psyche and don’t forget to visit the other bloggers who had the courage to take the crush plunge. A list of their favorites follows. Enjoy!

• • •

Kathy Coleman
as Holly Marshall

Those pigtails! That plaid shirt! Who could resist this darling tomboy who fell with her family through a dimensional warp and wound up “In the laaaaand of the lost, lost, lost!”? Kathy Coleman as Holly Marshall was the very first girl I think I fell in love with. She was always getting into trouble with those scary Sleestack but still somehow managed to cook dinner for her lame brother Will and pseudo-scientist father Rick. Holly was just the kind of girl I wished lived next door… if she wasn’t stuck in a parallel dimension. A few years back I bought the season 1 DVD of Land of the Lost and when I grabbed the screen caps for this post, the back of the box even proclaimed Kathy Coleman to be “many a young boy’s first crush”. I guess I was in good, and numerous company.

• • •

Angela Cartwright
as Penny Robinson

Forget Judy, the older, blonder sister that everybody else went ga-ga over. Penny Robinson, played by Angela Cartwright for three seasons on Lost in Space, was the thinking boy’s girl Friday. Penny had it all, an annoying genius brother, a cool pet space-monkey named Debbie and a tendency to wear clothes made out of tinfoil. Unlike Holly Marshall though, Penny seemed to be firmly stuck in the awkward role of “middle child”. Not as young and adventurous as Will, and not as mature and good looking as Judy, Penny often got overlooked in Lost’s story lines. I always looked forward to the rare episodes involving Penny and her inevitable “damsel in distress” moments that were usually caused by Dr. Smith. You may remember Angela Cartwright from her memorable role as Brigitta von Trapp in The Sound of Music, but she’ll always be Penny Robinson to me.

• • •

Erin Gray
as Col. Wilma Deering

Holy cow! If ever there was a TV character that jump started boys into puberty, it was Colonel Wilma Deering, played by Erin Gray from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. I was just 11 when this show started airing on NBC, but by the time it was cancelled three seasons later, I swear I was 18. Wilma’s infamous satin costumes were an obvious ploy to lure male viewers, and judging from my inability to remember much other than Erin Gray and Twiki, I’d say it worked. You have to give credit to Gray for playing the role with such strength and grace, despite the shiny blue and purple fan service the producers served up week to week. Amazingly enough, Gray’s appeal was even strong enough to lure legions of viewers to the comedic train wreck that was Silver Spoons. She was also in the final running for the role of Captain Janeway on Star Trek Voyager, which had another satin clad beauty you may remember.

• • •

Yvonne Craig
as Barbara Gordon / Batgirl

Brought in to raise sinking ratings, the character of Batgirl, played with enthusiastic crime fighting vigor by Yvonne Craig, stole my heart from the get go. I’m not sure if it was the flowing red hair under that super cool bat cowl, or the secret Batcycle she had stored in her one bedroom apartment, but Barbara Gordon drove me Batcrazy. Craig’s portrayal of the hero gave girls a new, strong role model and gave boys, like myself, heartaches for years to come. Batgirl always seemed to be getting into trouble too, which was just fine with me. I remember watching the episode where Batman and Robin get tied up into a Siamese human knot with Batgirl and thinking “What a great way to die!” Holy “involuntary muscular contractions” Batman!

• • •

Carrie Fisher
as Princess Leia Organa

Don’t try and deny it, you probably had a crush on Princess Leia too. Who didn’t for God’s sake? How could we help it anyway? The character of Leia Organa came bursting off the screen in 1977’s mega-hit Star Wars and young boy’s lives would never be the same. Ask most guys what comes to mind when they think of Princess Leia and they’ll probably say “Bikini Leia!” but Carrie Fisher had me swooning long before ROTJ. You gotta love a woman who orders the likes of Han Solo around and exclaims “Would someone please get this walking carpet out of my way?”. She even somehow managed to project authority while having two cinnamon buns strapped to her noggin. About the only thing wrong with Leia was her tendency to go for scoundrels instead of the squeaky clean farmer type boys. You could say that I fell squarely into the latter category, and so our “love” was doomed from the start. Then again, that’s probably a good thing since I would have turned out to be her brother. Yuck!!

Check out these blogger’s childhood crushes:

Living In the now
Cocoia Blog
Russian Mafia Babe

Don’t forget to Digg It!

SPOILERS AHEAD: This post contains potential spoilers for seasons 1 & 2 of the NBC drama, Heroes. If you’ve not watched yet but are planning to, then you’ll want to skip this post. You’ve been warned.

Unlike many of the fans that are addicted to NBC’s hit show, Heroes, I wasn’t hooked from the start. In fact, I never even tuned in until my wife convinced me to give it a try with the release of the season 1 DVD. She had been telling me how good it was for months and that I should really watch it. The guys at work loved it too and I often had to drown out their weekly discussions of the show with loud bouts of Tears for Fears pumping through my headphones while they would theorize about the various characters, plot points and next week’s episode. From the start, I had thought of Heroes as a cheap, TV knock-off of Marvel’s X-Men and not really worth my time. It took a couple of episodes before I saw how well crafted Heroes was, but once I did, there was no stopping. Burning through season 1 on DVD was thoroughly enjoyable & utterly addicting.

Each episode flowed freely into the next and I found myself caught up in multiple story arcs and solid character development. I really enjoyed watching Hiro Nakamura’s evolution from geeky Star Trek nerd to full fledged warrior, all the while keeping his sense of humor. Series favorite Claire, was surprisingly well handled too. I had assumed her character would be a rip from one of my all time favorites, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but again I was wrong. The story of Claire and her compelling father played by Jack Coleman, brought both drama and realism to this fantastical universe. The show even found a catch phrase that gave fans a type of “secret hand-shake” that only others of their kind would understand – “Save the cheerleader, save the world.”

Life was good. Until it immediately turned to crap.

I’ve been patiently waiting for season two of Heroes to “start”. So far, no luck. Unlike season 1, this year, the various characters don’t seem to be developing. There are vague notions of a new threat, and more foreshadowing of the future thanks to Isaac’s lost paintings, but in general, the arc is moving at a snail’s pace. By this time in season 1 viewers were solidly hooked and couldn’t wait for each new episode. This time around, I barely remember what happened last week. If it wasn’t for the “previously on Heroes” leader at the start each episode, I think I’d be lost. What’s going on? Where’s the magic?

I think one problem is expectations. So many fans got caught up in the amazing writing, acting and story arc development last year, that nothing the writers could do this time around could ever hope to come close. They’ve attempted to placate fans with new characters, abilities and a few geeky stars thrown in for good measure, all to no avail. Veronica Mars’ Kristen Bell and even Nichelle Nichols from Star Trek: TOS, can’t keep the sub-par writing of season 2 from showing. The new heroes we’ve been introduced to are relatively exciting (Monica the copycat girl and Parkman’s dad, aka Nightmare Man), but too many of the original favorites have taken steps backwards.

Peter loses his memory and has to rediscover his various abilities. Sylar lives, has lost all of his powers and is stranded somewhere in Mexico. Niki Sanders checks into the company “hospital” and suddenly she’s whole again. Claire has to go back into hiding and struggles to conceal her abilities from her high school peers. All of these developments are frustrating, regressive and unsatisfying. These “mini arcs” need to end immediately. Many series fans (including me) felt the season 1 finale was disappointing because Kring didn’t let the heroes be heroes. Instead of a climatic battle to defeat Sylar and solve the riddle of the exploding man utilizing all of the cast and their abilities, Hiro simply appears and stabs Sylar without so much as a whimper. Tim Kring spent the entire season introducing us to these incredible characters, building to a crisis the players would have to band together to stop, and it was over before it began. Kring can’t afford to make the same mistakes again, but he is.

Word comes this week that, due in part to the Hollywood writers strike, and dramatically reduced ratings, the planned mid-season spin-off, Heroes: Origins, has been shelved. The strike might be the official reason why we won’t see these six episodes (heck we might not even see the last half of season 2), but I think the drop in ratings is the more worrisome factor. Unless Heroes gets back to its roots and puts these characters in situations worthy of their namesake fast, we won’t have Claire, Noah, Sylar, and Parkman to kick around much longer. Will Heroes become just another great show killed before its time? As Hiro Nakamura might say, only time will tell.

UPDATE: Tonight’s episode “Out of Time” took some steps in the right direction. Several of the plot threads theorized by people commenting below came true (I won’t say which ones incase you don’t want to know) and things seem to be picking up. Perhaps November sweeps is just the kick in the pants the viewers like myself need to start to feel good about Heroes again. I just hope the writers strike doesn’t take the wind out of the series’ sails before it manages to get going.

UPDATE II: It seems that Heroes creator, Tim Kring, is aware of the problems with this season and issued a few statements about the fan’s disappointment. The good news is it seems he is committed to righting the wrongs and getting things back on track. Hat tip to Talos for this.

Dear NBC

October 30, 2007

With the news yesterday that NBC wanted to experiment with raising prices on iTunes, and asked for a cut of Apple’s massive iPod revenue, I thought I would voice my thoughts over at NBC’s newly beta Hulu site. As Corey pointed out to me this morning, NBC’s “slice” of the iPod revenue is the network getting their shows on the portable player in the first place. They are not entitled to profits from the sales of the hardware itself. Despite what Bill and Ballmer have done. Here’s my comment over at Hulu’s blog:

“So $15 Million dollars wasn’t enough for you guys from iTunes last year huh? What was the amount you were making for your shows online before iTunes came along? Oh yeah, right. Zero. Your vision is shortsighted, greedy and anti-customer.

If I can’t view your shows on my iPod or iPhone, can only see the last 5 episodes of something, can’t watch them outside the US, have to watch ads and need flash, then I’d say this grand experiment is a massive failure. Too bad too because I like your content, but I’ll never buy another NBC/U DVD. Ever.”

I meant that last bit. Mindy and I bought the first season of Heroes on DVD because I had missed it first time around. Although it’s tempting to buy season 2 when it eventually comes out, until NBC comes back to iTunes, I won’t be forking over any more money to Zucker and company. If you feel the same way, I suggest you head on over to Hulu and let your thoughts be known. Judging from the comments already posted, we’re not alone.

UPDATE: Upon further reflection, anyone wanna take a guess as to why the final season of NBC/Universal’s ‘Battlestar Galactica’ is being delayed until April instead of its planned January airing? Could it be that NBC/U wants Galactica to be their flagship show when Hulu leaves beta? Could be rabbit. Could be.

God or Mini Golf?

October 11, 2007

CBS’s Kid Nation is fast becoming my new favorite TV show. This surprising and delightful reality series challenges a group of 40 kids to carve out a functioning society in the New Mexico desert. The latest episode dealt with the contentious subject of religion. Like many of the issues the children deal with on Kid Nation, the subject of “going to service” was imposed upon them by the show’s producers in the form of the town journal. Each week a new chapter is read by the ruling council and they must decide if they will take the journal’s entry to heart and effect change in Bonanza City, or ignore the lessons it attempts to teach.

After reading the entry about Sunday service, the council decides to create a “catch-all” gathering for the entire town in which everyone’s religion will be represented. But when the council rings the meeting bell, no one comes running. It seems on the outset, these kids don’t love God. They are both lawless AND Godless! Oh ye of little faith. Later that evening, Morgan decides to get an impromptu prayer group together, and low and behold, many of the kids attend. As the children huddle around a burning oil barrel, prayers from various religions are shared. Some of the kids are even moved to tears by the words of their friends. Instead of religion being enforced, God is shared spontaneously, and that’s what I love most about Kid Nation – it’s never what you expect.

Given a choice between an 18 hole mini golf course, or a collection of holy books, the kids choose the books. When tensions run high in a town meeting, it’s the voice of 9 year old Alex that makes the most sense. Sophia calmly states in an interview that religion is one of the leading reasons people kill each other around the world. And some kids disturbingly emulate their parents by “drowning their sorrows” with shots of root beer in the town Saloon. No matter what pops up from week to week on this contrived, sometimes awkward TV series, through it all, the kids shine through. They constantly rise above the fake settings and the Survivor-like challenges to single-handedly put the “reality” back in reality TV, and I’m loving every minute of it.

When the hero of last week’s sheep herding challenge, Cody, decided to leave, his heartfelt goodbye really got me. Who among us hasn’t had to say goodbye to a close friend or lend moral support when a buddy is down? Kid Nation lets us re-connect with our childhood while giving us glimpses into how today’s parents are raising their kids. Michael, Zach and Anjay’s parents are doing something right because they all deserve a gold star.

The preview for next week’s episode looks great too, as the kids will have to hold an election for a new ruling council. Politics and kids usually don’t mix well, but something tells me this will be different. It’s a shame that Kid Nation got such a bad rap in the weeks leading up to its premiere. While some aspects of the show are less than perfect, on the whole, it enlightens and satisfies. Just the right blend of humor – “I got a bogey!” and insight – “Yuck stuff.” to make Kid Nation one great hour of television. Check it out.

Growing up, one of my favorite shows had to be Get Smart starring Don Adams. The silly exploits of the hapless spy from CONTROL tickled my funny bone like nothing else. Turns out that Get Smart is the latest television property to be turned into a big screen feature, this time starring the hilarious star of The Office, Steve Carrell. The trailer looks funny enough, but I suspect they are saving the best bits for the actual release. I can only imagine Carrell’s riotous take on my favorite Smart gag, the Cones of Silence. I refuse to get my hopes up too high however, thanks to film disasters like The Dukes of Hazzard, Bewitched and Starsky & Hutch. I pray that Carrell will pull if off, if for nothing else but to save us from all of the reviews that will no doubt start with “Missed it by THAT much!” if he fails. I guess we’ll find out this summer.

Hat tip to Imagication for this post.

In Defense of Kid Nation

September 20, 2007

Let me just say that I do not have children of my own. If I did, my view of the new reality based television show from CBS about 40 tykes in the New Mexico desert might be different, but I doubt it. Having watched the premiere episode, it seems obvious these brave kids have taken on an adult-sized challenge with courage and passed with flying colors. Kid Nation just might be poised to become the next big hit, as well as do something that TV seldom does – enlighten and inspire its audience. Unfortunately, the production was criticized as soon as the premise leaked. Critics alluded to violation of child labor laws, blamed greedy parents and warned of potentially life threatening situations even before a single minute had aired. Newsweek’s Joshua Alston has said that Kid Nation is an example of “how low popular culture can go” and made the inevitable comparison to William Golding’s 1954 classic novel, Lord of the Flies. A group of children, left to fend for themselves in the wilderness with no adult supervision. What will happen? Will chaos ensue? Will the children turn on each other and start dropping boulders on kids they want to “vote out”? As it turns out, chaos yes… boulders on kids, not so much.

Although we see the occasional bouts of anarchy (hey, these are children), what shines through is how well the children adapt. Led to an abandoned town in New Mexico, these 40 kids learned how to function as a society for 40 days without the benefit of parents, teachers or even guardians. The adult host and the camera crew would appear to be the only supervision given, but the show’s producers also provided for instant, around the clock medical attention and counseling for any child that required it. Reports do indicate that several minor injuries occurred on set including a sprained ankle, a burn due to cooking with hot oil, and one child ingested bleach accidentally. Ask any parent and I’m sure they’ll tell you that a single injury is one too many, but in exchange each child got a guaranteed $5K, chances to win $20K more, plus a once in a life-time opportunity to learn responsibility, make new friends and challenge themselves.

Kid Nation succeeds because it has just enough structure to keep the children focused running the town and working towards those coveted golden stars. Prizes and challenges aside, best part of the show is the kids themselves. The parents of these children should be proud, and with good reason. Sophia, age 14 helped feed the entire posse even though she’s never cooked before. Greg, age 15 helped another child who had a muscle spasm onto the back of a wagon and pulled him into town. Michael, age 14 stood up during a shouting match and lent a calm opinion to the town’s ruling council. And Taylor, age 10, resisted the urge to return to her family, and instead helped lead her yellow team to victory over older and stronger kids to become the town cooks. All of these children are remarkable and I’m delighted that their parents have allowed us to get a sneak peak at their pride and joys.

I’m sure in the weeks ahead, it won’t all be teamwork and high-fives in Bonanza City. Problems will arise, just as they do in real life, and these resourceful sons and daughters will have to figure out how to deal with them. They have already shown the type of resilience that many adults can only dream of. If I did have children of my own, I would let them participate and gain as much from the experience as they possibly could. Today’s kids are coddled, fawned over and more often than not, spoiled. Kid Nation might be a game show, but at the end of the day, these young ones will take home much more than just prize money. They will have the satisfaction of knowing they were a part of something life changing. They will look at themselves and other children in a different light, and perhaps all of us watching at home will too. I suspect TV viewers will see the good parts of the show, forget the burn and the bleach, and reward CBS with a winner. Nothing would be a more fitting tribute to these kids’ brave nation.

Digg It!

It may seem to the casual reader that I have a bone to pick with cooking shows, but that’s just because they deserve it so much. I happen to think Bravo’s Top Chef is one of the best reality TV shows going, but even I’m having a hard time swallowing what head judge, Tom Colicchio, has been serving lately. This season, Colicchio’s behavior has gone from endearing to simply annoying. He’s been freaking the contestants out with his tendency to hover in the Top Chef kitchen while they are cooking. His criticisms of their food will go from “that was bad” one moment to “that was the single worst thing I’ve ever eaten” the next. He tends to think that no challenge is unfair, even ones that have little, if anything to do with a restaurant chef’s day to day job. And call me crazy, but any classically trained chef that doesn’t know how to properly hold a knife and fork, has no business telling others how to do their job.

There are large parts of Colicchio, and his participation on the show, that I enjoy. He apparently knows his stuff when it comes to cooking and is not afraid to be blunt with the contestants. If things are going south, he’ll let you know, and generally he’s pretty fair when it comes to who is performing and who is falling behind. His presence “grounds” the show from its inherent affected nature and lends credibility to its production. But at the same time, his level of patience has decreased while his need to critique has skyrocketed. The slightest flaw in the contestant’s cooking now has a tendency to set him off. On last week’s episode CJ’s brocoolini turned out to be the worst thing he’d ever eaten on the show. Never mind the fact that none of the chefs had ever used an oven on a commercial airliner before, or even prepared meals that had certain height requirements (yes, you read that right, height requirements). Colicchio seems to be becoming more and more jaded with each season, and I fear his likeability is suffering. It’s easy to sit in judgement on other people’s creations, and since I’ve never actually seen him cook, I don’t know if he’s just talking out his ass, or he has the truffles to back it up.

I’d like to suggest that Bravo inject a bit of humility into Top Chef by announcing a “Contestant’s Revenge” episode. I propose that for one episode, Colicchio, Padma, Gail and any other guest judges who have the courage, compete in their own mini challenge. They’ll get an impossibly small budget to work with, a miniscule amount of time in which to prepare and compete, and then be forced to serve their concoctions to the Top Chef contestants and a few snotty food critics thrown in for good measure. They say you don’t really know a chef until you’ve sauteed a mile in his pan. How about it Tom, can you take it as well as dish it out? I think we’d all like to see. In the meantime, I know a great place you can go and hone your table manners. I hear they have an opening.

Sweet Zombie Jesus!

September 5, 2007

“Everyone always says they’re in favor of saving Hitler’s brain. But as soon as you put it in the body of a great white shark, ooohh! Suddenly you’ve gone too far!”

Just another friendly reminder that all-new episodes of Futurama are coming to Comedy Central in November. I don’t regret telling you this, but I do both rue and lament it.

Some stunning developments in the world of net delivered entertainment today. First came a salvo from NBC that said it was opting out of their contract to sell its television shows via the iTunes store starting this December. NBC reportedly wanted more control over content bundles as well a “flexible” pricing structure. No doubt bolstered by Universal’s recent decision to go month by month in their contract with the iTunes store, NBC attempted to gain the upper hand with Apple and publicly announce that Jobs & company weren’t playing fair. Apple’s insistence on simplicity and a single price meant the network would have to remove its programs from the largest online media store in the world.

It didn’t take long for Apple to fire back. The computer company issued a press release that in effect said NBC was insisting on raising prices by a whopping 250%, making episodes that were once $1.99, now $4.99. So rather than force consumers to pay almost $5 for anything from a 1/2 hour episode of The Office, to a full hour long drama like Heroes, Apple decided to not wait until December, but pull the “plug” now. I love this bit:

“Apple’s agreement with NBC ends in December. Since NBC would withdraw their shows in the middle of the television season, Apple has decided to not offer NBC TV shows for the upcoming television season beginning in September.”

So in other words, NBC’s not going to get shit. Apple won’t post any episodes from the upcoming season of such fan favorites as Heroes, Battlestar Galactica, The Office and 30 Rock. Never mind the fact that the iTunes single-handedly prevented NBC from canceling The Office in the first place, or that you can TiVo these shows for free now, or even that higher-quality versions of all of these shows are available hours (not days) after they are aired via bit torrent. No, NBC thinks it knows what’s best for their customers and it has demanded that Apple start charging more than double for something that just frankly, isn’t that good.

This move will do nothing to help NBC and everything to give Apple even more bargaining power with other content providers in the days ahead. I can’t wait to see NBC try to sell an episode of The Office for $4.99 on or even via Amazon Unboxed. I’d sooner save my pennies and buy the DVDs for a fraction of the cost than pay over $100 for a low quality, DRM locked season of Heroes. Who wouldn’t?

Jeremy Horwitz of iLounge has written an open letter to NBC concerning their arrogant strategy. He hits the nail directly on the head, and I sincerely hope the suits at NBC read it and take it to heart. We’ll get our shows via DVR or torrent for free, piracy will increase, and NBC will lose millions in revenue because the peacock didn’t know when to shut up and smile. Sounds like a fair trade to me.

UPDATE: An interesting side note. NBC will be launching its own video website in October named Hulu. What’s Hulu you ask? Although just a fun, rhyming name to us, Hulu actually means “cease” and “desist” in Swahili. Speaks volumes about NBC and their level of competence in this entire affair.