Monday, April 30, 2007

Numb3rs...the 3 is silent, but really cool

I've always been mystified by the programming schedule on prime time television. There always seems to be a night when nothing good is on, though it changes most seasons. And the graveyard of Friday nights was always a bit of a joke. However, I think the advent of TiVo and DVR, any night becomes fair game for good TV. Unfortunatley, the networks still don't think so. That's why Numb3rs is a great exception. It's been on for 3 seasons, and still manages to figure out a way to make math and mathematical modeling a part of most investigations. At first it seemed forced and a little ridiculous to bother every time, but they seem to have found better mathematicians to mine for ideas, and hire actual television writers to firm up the rest of the story, so the plots are much more realistic and based on the FBI rather than fun ways to use math. But the best part of this show is still Peter MacNicol. I loved him in his Ally McBeal days when his nose would whistle when he was nervous, and he had a bunch of other funny tics (a staple for David E. Kelly's characters it turns out), but he's much more fun in his current role as David Krumholtz's kookie, brilliant colleague who only eats white food and prefers to live off the grid. Apparantly he's been on 24 for a few episodes, and so they sent him into space on Numb3rs, and he just returned, a little stranger than usual...perhaps he met aliens.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Ah, to be terrific, radiant and humble.

The updated, live-action version of E.B. White's Charlotte's Web is not a huge improvement on the 1973 animated version because it doesn't have fun songs like "Zuckerman's Famous Pig". Other than that, it's a pretty great family movie. The animal voices have a lot more attitude, and even the goose and gander make it fun when they're around. John Cleese as the sheep (I think he voices all of them) is terrific. Unfortunately, Charlotte looks a little more true to life, but the increased number of eyes and the lack of eyelashes from the animated version makes her final good-bye more creepy than teary. Overall, the movie is really fun, and I'm sure will become a children's classic, but I have to admit I missed the animals singing. The best bit is Steve Buscemi as the rat, Templeton - spot on casting.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Geeks need love too...

I've been watching Bones since the beginning, and I've really liked how they've developed the characters into their current incarnations. However, I just caught the pilot and a later episode again and was reminded that, unlike most shows these days, this has been a pretty terrific show since the beginning. Emily Deschanel plays a forensic anthropologist who can basically reveal the past and a good deal of the future from a set of bones (hence the name). Her FBI counterpart (i.e. sexual tension partner) is played by David Boreanaz of Angel fame. The murders they investigate run the gamut from crispy critters to floaters with a heck of a lot in between. But the best part about this show is the interaction between the various members of the scientific staff. Boreanaz spends most of his time asking them to translate their nerdy jokes, which, if you're a nerd too, is funny twice. They spend a lot of time explaining the niceties of social interaction to each other (e.g. if you want a jury to believe your science, you can't show up in flannel shirts with shaggy hair), which seems strange at first, but becomes their modus operandi, and where the best lines always come from. My favorite episodes to date are "Aliens in a Spaceship" and the first season finale, "The Woman in Limbo". Oh, and the geek love between two of the supporting characters becomes an awesome counterpoint to the main characters in the second season. Enjoy - you'll never think about what your scars and broken bones might say the same way again.

Friday, April 27, 2007

It takes all kinds...

Okay, I can't even comment on this, but just wanted to make sure everyone saw it and laughed with me...and not at Ms. Meskimen.

Kings, Queens and Divas, Oh My...

In the next week, The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, and Dreamgirls will be released on DVD. I loved The Queen - I cried several times, both at the loss of Princess Diana, and the effect it had on the entire world, particularly her family. Princess Diana's funeral was the the day I left for college, and I remember getting up at 3 in the morning to watch the funerary march. So watching how the Royal family responded to this catastrophe, given their personal history with Diana, was amazing. Helen Mirren's intimate performance gave life to a woman usually seen in fits and spurts and rarely speaking to her public. You can see that she was trying to protect her family, the monarchy, and her personal image, in that order. It's terrific and shouldn't be missed. On the flip side, and this could be my feminist bias, The Last King of Scotland is worth skipping, if only because it gives a dead dictator the chance to poison more people's souls. Forest Whitaker is brilliant, transforming his unassuming teddy bear demeanor into a sociopath with moments of clarity and humor. James McAvoy plays a doctor who supposedly falls under Amin's spell, but it doesn't play that well - McAvoy comes across as a weaselly guy trying to get ahead by getting cozy with the President. There are movies that portray horrific events with compassion and sensitivity, but this is not one of them. The violence become gratuitous and more than a little scary. If you value to the softness of your soul, do not see this movie - it will take a little of that away. If you're looking for an uplifting story of betrayal and back-stabbing, Dreamgirls is perfect and even has it's own wonderful soundtrack. I was fully supportive of Jennifer Hudson's winning the Oscar, Eddie Murphy not, and the film not being nominated. It's a fluffy movie, with great music you'll hum for ages, that shows the journey of a girl group from the 60s. It wasn't in the same league as the other movies that were nominated this year, but it's definitely worth a night at home with popcorn. I loved it, and will watch it again many times.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Fighting both sides of the fight...

Boston Legal is still a terrific show. They frequently address the most pertinent issues going through society - so quickly in fact it's as if David E. Kelly waits to see Monday's news before writing Tuesday's show. However, the genius of this show is that before he tackled big issues, he first created really big characters to handle both sides of the issue with equanimity. James Spader and William Shatner can argue anything, from the right to bear arms anywhere and everywhere to the elimination of Barbies for sexualizing tweens. Their characters (more Shatner than Spader) hold ideas very strongly, but are able to argue them from whatever side will win their point. It's not that their ideas are firm and rigid, but that they have enough passion about them to attempt to persuade others to their point of view. Shatner's character tends to fall on the un-PC side of every issue, but rather than pat him on the head and tut-tut, they explain to him the fault of his logic, which inevitably leads them to realize there is merit or at least historical precedent to his beliefs and he might have a point in his lunacy. Thus, the show doesn't always explain away bad behavior, but rather examines it in a greater context. I highly recommend this show - particularly the Halloween episodes - Shatner and Spader as flamingos or the Pointer sisters shouldn't be missed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Watch it for the acting! Heroes....

When I first started watching Heroes I couldn't believe they could sustain the story or make the people continue to be interesting. Then I realized that wouldn't matter. There is sooo much going on in the show, without being overwhelming, that there's something for everyone every week. However, whatever they're putting forward is being created by actors who can really act. Ali Larter plays Niki/Jessica, a split personality that is never over the top (even though Jessica is an assassin and Niki a homemaker), and she can switch from one to another with the most subtle changes. She's just terrific, even if her storyline is still unfolding. There are conspiracy theories (many of which I'm sure are true) that wreak of the current administration, complete with new politicians emerging, genetic engineering mysteries, family lives being torn around by these heroic abilities, and a global touch with Hiro and Ando running around the country looking for a sword. Masi Oka (who plays Hiro, and also has a computer science degree and worked for George Lucas at Industrial Light & Magic, doing CGI for Pirate's and Star Wars!) is an amazing comedic addition to the show. His innocence and drive to save the world (a recurring theme) are inspiring and often provide little giggles. It's enough fun watching to find out what they will have to save next now that the cheerleader survived. I recommend catching this as soon as you can - it's on NBC Mondays at 9, and in lots of re-runs on the SciFi Channel.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

First "Lost" post (of many I'm sure)

On Lost this week 4 characters, Charlie, Jin, Desmond, and Hurley (I'm guessing you know more or less who they are) went camping. They're sitting around a fire and Jin is holding a flashlight under his chin, and talking in a sort of ominous voice, in Korean of course, since his English is just emerging. He ends his little story with "Boo" and everyone kind of jumps.
Okay, that's what happened on TV. Then on the TV Guide podcast they were chatting about how it was a funny scene, but that they didn't quite get it at first. One guy said, "Yeah, I thought he was doing karaoke at first". They kept chatting saying that it was cute that everyone jumped, and that campfire ghost stories transcend language. Then the same guy repeated his "joke" - "It was funny, but I thought he was doing karaoke at first". This raised my hackles quite a bit - Jin was obviously not singing, and he was sitting in the dark around a campfire with a flashlight under his chin. I asked around about it and it was suggested maybe the guy meant to say "kabuki" (traditional Japanese theater), which actually would have been mildly clever rather than mildly racist in my opinion. It's a bizarre Asian stereotype and the joke actually makes no sense. Also, it shows that the guy doesn't think of Jin as a multi dimensional character, just as "Asian guy". It just seemed like a weird way to try to get a laugh.

I will post more interesting things about Lost later, I just wanted to get this out.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

In the Land of Women - through the eyes of Santa Claus

You know the joke that goes something like, the Easter bunny, Santa Claus and the perfect couple were driving around together and had an accident - who survived? Obviously the perfect woman because the others are fictional. Well, that's sort of how the Adam Brody character came across In the Land of Women. Most of the female characters were pretty decently written, and had some complexity to them that made for fairly fresh and compelling material - a teenage girl who doesn't know how or who to hook with, and a stay at home mom who has realized that she only defines her life in terms of what her family has accomplished, rather than her own actions. For the most part the acting was pretty good, partiularly Meg Ryan (though her lips are still distracting) playing a woman dealing with her own choices and the devestating news of cancer. They all had secrets that actually made them more interesting women, and revealed themselves a little. The part I couldn't buy was this articulate, sensitive, 26-year-old, cutish guy who felt the need to reconnect with his grandmother, then treated her like crap, while trying to befriend the neighbor women in an effort to get over his girlfriend dumping him. The dialogue walked a very fine line between intellectually creative and cliched, usually ending up on the better side. Overall, I liked the movie - it had some new points of view and good women characters, but I left feeling like not much had been resolved in the way they kept setting it up - just that it ended. This not-so-perfect fictional guy finds some sort of will to go on after meeting these women, and the women weren't the cohesive group one would expect in a whole land of women. The supporting cast adds a few terrific laughs too - the younger daughter confesses to being afraid she'll get stuck in yoga poses, and the Grandmother (played very strangely by Olympia Dukakis) answers the door without pants.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Another Robin Hood? Yes, please!

The BBC has been sending terrific shows to their old colony recently. Of course, many are also available on DVD, so you don't have to catch them on BBC America live. However, importing Jonas Armstrong immediately would be a good idea, preferably onto a successful TV show that lasts forever. The very sexy and smoldering Mr. Armstrong plays the most recent Robin of Loxley returning from the crusades to find the evil Sheriff of Nottingham usurping his serfs. This version shows Saturdays at 9pm on BBC America, and has a terrific supporting cast. They manage funny quips between Robin's gang of merry men (and a woman) and continuous uncertain banter between our love interests. For a change, the old Sheriff is not trying to steal Marion (who almost convinces us she doesn't want Robin anymore anyway). There's another bad guy in cahoots with the Sheriff who does his evil bidding, and is the weakest link on the show, mostly due to his lackluster sneering and stupid dialogue. However, it leaves room for the Sheriff to actually be a fun rival for Robin. Robin even brokes into the Sheriff's bedroom and they have "pillow talk". This first season comes out on DVD June 5, and I highly recommend adding it to your list if you can't catch it on TV.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Anderson Cooper - 45˚ Podcast

I really like Anderson Cooper. First, for the fact that he actually shows up at a lot of his new stories, but not really in an ambulance chaser way, but rather to actually show you what he's talking about. It gives him an air of sincerity in addition to his overall sense of intelligence. While he went to the blue bastion of Connecticut education (far inferior to the NJ Orange, of course), he still seems like he knows a little bit about the world. Second, I loved his book -mostly because I've seen a few of the places he's visited, and found his descriptions and personal connections to what he saw touching. Now, he has a short video podcast (15-20 minutes) (that you can also just listen to) that sums up his nightly 2 hour report on CNN - Anderson Cooper 360˚. It's only been on a week or so, but the format seems to focus on whatever the biggest story has been, either through interviews, or more interestingly with discussions with or between involved parties, and then a quick sum up of many other stories, with pithy, occasionally snarky, commentary by various contributors. His conversation with Whoopi Goldberg about the Imus debacle was really interesting - her opinions were put in context by Cooper,which made it feel like a conversational debate between friends much more than an interview. The only bad part is the podcast comes out after the nightly report, so it's a day behind. However, you could always watch him live at 10pm on CNN. Read his book - Dispatches from the Edge - it's impressive on many levels.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

#1 Ladies Detective Agency Series - New Book!!!

All evidence to the contrary, I do read books. When I was living in Africa and the years after, I would average a book every 5-6 days. While that is no longer the case, I can still finish a good book very fast. One of the best series I've ever read is the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and it's subsequent books. Alexander McCall Smith has several series going at the same time, grew up in Zimbabwe, and spends time in both Scotland and Botswana where he was a medical law professor. The style of writing is nothing like anything I've read before - it's simple, and, in my opinion, reflects the cadence of speech and life in Botswana. There are cultural niceties that are observed all the way through the book, from politely addressing all women as Mma (pronounced - "mmm-ah") and men as Rra, a form of "ma'am and sir" but nothing to do with being single or married. There is much discussion of the simple acts of observing human nature to solve mysteries. I've heard the books do not come across well as audiobooks, which I imagine is due to the person reading, and not the book itself. If you've got the time, they are a quick read, and do not need to be read in any order. The titles themselves show the quirky, happy, simple storytelling attitude these books have. The current offering - The Good Husband of Zebra Drive is awaiting my attention. A note for reading - don't let the strange names put you off (I didn't read "A Year in Provence" for ages because I couldn't get around the french phrases). Just pronounce every letter in every word, often rolling m's or n's into the next letter, as described in Mma. The other titles of the books include Tears of the Giraffe, Morality for Beautiful Girls, The Kalahari Typing School for Men, and Blue Shoes and Happiness.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Guilty Confession

I loved "Blades of Glory". I confess. I have not generally been a fan of Will Ferrell's comedy, though he always has bits of hilarity. "Elf" is fun to watch - mostly because the writing stays funny thoughout (c'mon, a letter written on an etch-a-sketch, "I'm sorry I ruined your lives, and crammed eleven cookies into the VCR" is about as funny as it comes). But I admit, I laughed my ass off at "Blades of Glory". And here's why you should see it in a theater - the groans of all the guys and the giggles of all the girls every time Will Ferrell or Jon Heder gets hit in the nuts. Now I hated "Napolean Dynamite" and couldn't be bothered to see "Talladega Nights", but the interaction between the two main characters in BoG is often priceless. There's a scene that still makes me giggle in the recollection, where they're stretching facing each other with their feet pushing on each others. Heder's foot slips and nails Ferrell in the nuts. It was clearly an accident, but when they resume stretching, Ferrell seeks revenge. I understand if you're not laughing at my description of this scene, which is why you MUST see this movie in a theater, or with a lot of guys. As a girl, it's more fun laughing at the guys groaning about getting hit in the nuts, than the scene itself dictates. One of my friends likened it to the scene in the recent "Casino Royale" when Bond is being tortured naked on a chair. That scene only makes sense if you're sitting listening to the men in the audience cowered in imagined pain. So, girls, go see Blades of Glory in the theater, and guys, you'll love it anyway, but see it with girls so you can groan for them.

Fantasy Television

A friend recently challenged me to come up with my favorite characters from TV and then put them into a new show. So what I did was to think of my favorite TV shows, and then pick my favorite characters. However, I'm not picking the character the play, so much as the actor who plays them, and the style with which they play them. For example, I think Chandra Wilson is great as Dr. Bailey on Grey's Anatomy, but I love her recent awards acceptance speeches more, so I'd want Chandra Wilson, with the strength of Dr. Bailey but the lightheartedness she naturally portrays.
Favorite Characters:
1. CJ Cregg (The West Wing)- Alison Janney
2. President Bartlett (The West Wing)- Martin Sheen
3. Emily Gilmore (Gilmore Girls) - Kelly Bishop
4. Spike (Buffy/Angel)- James Marsters
5. Rachel (Friends) - Jennifer Aniston
6. Dr. McDreamy (Grey's Anatomy) - Patrick Dempsey
7. Michael Vaughn (Alias) - Michael Vartan
8. Jeremy Goodwin/Will Bailey (Sports Night/The West Wing)- Joshua Malina
9. Miranda Bailey (Grey's Anatomy) - Chandra Wilson
10. Charlie Epps (Numb3rs) - David Krumholtz
11. Gus (Psyche) - Dule Hill
12. Calleigh Dusquene (CSI: Miami) - Emily Proctor
13. Barney (How I Met Your Mother) - Neil Patrick Harris
14. Sun Kwon (Lost) - Yunjin Kim

Okay, here's something of my ideal show: Sheen and Bishop are the parents of Dempsey, Malina, Krumholtz, Aniston, and Proctor. Proctor is married to Vartan, and Krumholtz is married to Kim. Marsters and Harris are trying to date Aniston (one a new love interest, one from high school). Wilson and Hill are married and grew up on the same street as our family and now live in the same building as Proctor and Vartan. That's what I've got so far. Allison Janey is probably a significant other character - like the woman who runs the family business and you're never quite sure if she and Sheen had/are having an affair. Dempsey is a womanizer who has always had a crush on Janey. Malina is gay, but not out to his family, yet. I like the more grown up character Dule plays in Pysche and I like the fun spirited person Chandra seems to be when accepting awards as opposed to the bad-ass she is on Grey's. I think they could mesh well, with her being the power person. Hill and David Krumholtz are best friends in my story. I totally see Krumholtz as being that white guy with the Asian wife. I think they're the most stable couple of the group. I see Vartan and Proctor as the perfect couple from age 10-22, that now can't figure out how to be perfect adults. They don't fight, but they seem to keep needing help from their family. Janey is Vartan's older sister who works for the company and while smart, Vartan and Proctor have always had trouble getting out of the smart shadow of their family. She's a daddy's girl and he lives in Janey's shadow. Dempsey and Aniston are the family screw ups. She dates a lot and hops between jobs - like her "Along Came Polly" character, and Dempsey's very serious, but embarassed because he's a teacher and not part of the big family thing. Malina is the successful son - though the middle child. There's lot of conflict, but lots of spots of humor too. Of course, I think Aaron Sorkin should write it - with help from the Palladinos. Laura Innes, Thomas Schlamme, and Dan Palladino should direct. That's my initial storyline. Could be more developed for humor, or drama depending on where the story took place. I was thinking it would be a Seattle story, rather than LA or NYC, and they could own a chain of coffee houses, settings for various things. Please add any comments you can think of that might improve this...guest stars, story lines, etc.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Random timewaster

This is really fun...can you guess who is more famous?

Shear Genius = Project Runway, NOT Top Design

The new reality show on Bravo, "Shear Genius" is much more like it's successful predecessor "Project Runway" than it's immediate predecessor Top Design. I wanted to like Top Design, i really did - I love how people put together rooms, either with luxury or practicality and creativity. However, the challenges were REALLY rushed, uninspired, and most importantly un-mentored. Tim Gunn has been the major breakout star of Project Runway (see NYTimes article) and his role on the show is pretty crucial. In addition, Heidi Klum's partnership with Gunn during the show helps link the creative process to the judging. Top Design lacked all of that. Todd Oldham, the Tim Gunn of Project Runway, got minimal screen time, and usually just praised the contestants rather than help them improve. This is not the case on Sheer Genius. The format remains the same, challenges, judging, elimination with lots of bitchiness thrown in. However, Jacklyn Smith plays the host and judge (Heidi Klum's role, and missing from Tom Design) while Sally Hershberger combines Tim Gunn's role with that of a judge. So there's advice going on, as well as judging. It makes the show more cohesive and fun to watch. There's a lot more critique going on, rather than just complaining by the judges that the contestants didn't live up to the challenge. It's looking like a good show. I never got into Top Chef and I think it's for the same reasons Top Design didn't work - much less cohesion and characters that people can like all the way through. None of this is to downplay Tim Gunn's magnificence - he's really one of a kind.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Riches of Riches

Okay, when I first read they'd cast two Brits to play southern travellers in a new show on FX called The Riches, I was very skeptical. When one of them turned out to be Eddie Izzard, I jumped for joy. I LOVE Mr. Izzard's comedy ("Do you have a flaag?"). Seeing him do stand-up live is one of the best nights of my life. He's just hysterical. His acting is pretty decent too, though I haven't seen him in much more than The Cat's Meow and Ocean's Twelve, and both were minimal. Anyway, being able to see him on a regular basis was a going to be a good thing. Then I saw the actual show and it turns out to be a great thing. I was pretty unfamiliar with the concept of travellers or people who generally live outside "the grid", and at first thought it would be hard not to portray them in a cliched, racist way. But The Riches is so well written and conceived that it manages to avoid creating any sort of broad sterotype, and presents really nuanced individuals, who conveniently fall on either good or bad sides of likability, rather than good or bad morally. The acting in the first 2-3 episodes was a little weaker, with Izzard falling into a little too much improv stuttering and his very funny, drug-addicted, recently paroled wife, Minnie Driver, dropping her accent on a fairly regular basis. However, in the most recent few episodes it's just become terrific, with constant surprises as this traveller family tries to live as "buffers" (the traveller equivalent of "Muggles") and what it takes to fit into a suburban town and impersonate real people. They seem to navigate the line of "identity theft" pretty carefully as it's a fairly sensitive subject these days and not to be ignored lightly. Thankfully, FX is running the entire season so far tomorrow (FRIDAY) night at 9. Definitely check it out if you've missed any - it's worth watching, just to think about a whole different culture of people, how they live, and then what it means to be part of a community and what you present as your "identity" to prove who you are. It's terrific - check it out.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Northern Lights in Minneapolis?

Donald Sutherland has had a pretty amazing career - my favorite moment is when he asks Morgan Freeman in Outbreak, "Billy, are you dumb or sumpthin'?". He's 72 now, and still does an awesome smart ass. I admit that I wanted to see Aurora Borealis because it stars Joshua Jackson of Dawson's Creek fame, but I was pretty amazed by Mr. Sutherland's performance. It's basically a movie about a twenty-something guy (Jackson) who didn't really get to where he intended in life due to the untimely death of his father. It's 10 years later, and he's still skulking around with the same group he's known since he was 4, begging for pity jobs. But his grandparents have moved to town (the sprawling, frozen metropolis of the Twin Cities) and his granddad (Sutherland) is quickly declining in body, though still painfully sharp in mind. Jackson meets the home health aide, played by Juliette Lewis in as calm a role I've ever seen her play, and they actually start to like each other. It comes across as a little contrived, but the funny part is that granddad is contriving to make it happen, so that's covered. It's not a huge, whack you over the head kind of movie, but the characters are nice, the plot is very believable, and actually gets to a place worth watching. It's not a hugely happy movie, but you like the characters and want them to do well, and find some sort of peace. It turns out Jackson "lost his god" when his dad died, and regains his self-confidence by helping to care for his granddad and finding a grown-up relationship with Lewis. I bought that. I recommend this movie very highly. It's not huge, but it's nice to watch good acting and good characters that stay with you. Sutherland plays a declining man losing his dignity with amazing poise, though without inspiring pity. Also, Lewis is not annoying for a change, and Jackson is very cute, he even shaves from time to time. There's a good moment when he truly looks like Clooney.

An Ode to Aaron Sorkin - Bring Back Studio 60

I like nearly everything Aaron Sorkin has had come to the screen. And by nearly everything I'm including everything I've seen, and the nearly encompasses the stuff I haven't seen. I loved the West Wing, which continued to be good even after he left thanks to the genius that was the set of characters he created. Sports Night was fun, sassy, and just never found its audience. There are elements of both of these shows in Studio 60, which hasn't yet found its footing, but has achieved some of the same brilliant moments of its predecessors. I like the fact that Sorkin picks all kinds of small elements of society and brings them into prominence on his shows. He gave President Bartlett M.S. and educated a whole viewership about it, if only on a superficial level. He always seems to present situations where people matter more than the politics of the action - e.g. it's significant that Tom Jeter was speeding because he wanted to see his brother before he deployed to the Mid-East and not just that he's a celebrity getting out of a ticket, or Toby saving the astronauts by exposing a military asset. Sorkin makes it clear what matters and that things are rarely as simple as they seem at first. He makes us think about why we believe what we believe, and I admire that about his writing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"Thank God You're Here"

There's a new show on NBC on Mondays called "Thank God You're Here". It started last night with 2 episodes, with 4 guest stars each. David Allen Grier hosts with Dave Foley as the judge of each of the 4 guest actors. They're thrown into a scene to improvise with a set of actors on a set and in costume but with no prior knowledge or script. This is some of the funniest, big-belly laughing I've ever seen on TV. Okay, first a caveat, I LOVE IMPROV. I've loved it ever since I dated a guy my freshmen year and kept going to see it after we stopped dating. I've dragged many poor, unwilling friends to it and I'm sure they've always laughed.

Some of the guests did only okay, but some were amazingly good at producing totally original, hysterical moments. I've only seen Mo'Nique in passing comments and really didn't know anything about her, but seeing her portray a medieval queen made me giggle continuously.

And seeing Jennifer Coolidge play "Miss Caicos" at a beauty pagent and explaining that her country was an island surrounded by sea because that's all she knew about Turks and Caicos. And when asked what she'd most like to rid the world of, she responded "dry ice?".

I hope this show survives because it's absolutely hysterical. There are rules to improv that make it funnier and smarter, and these actors are pretty good at finding those moments to exploit to the fullest.

First Post - The Pursuit of Sassyness

Hi All,
My friend Catherine suggested I write my thoughts on popular entertainment in a blog and since I tend to follow up instantly on powerful suggestions, I hopped on board. My first set of insights will be on the new-to-DVD "The Pursuit of Happyness".

Personally, I wouldn't watch it if I were you; it's too sad and stressful for words. While the previews look like the opposite of that, there is literally one joke - it's in the previews and the rest is just as sad as sad can be. He just falls further and further, and just when it looks like he might make it, the movie ends. Yes, it's a success story, but unless you watched Oprah or Ellen and saw the guy interviewed, you don't actually hear about ANY of that. They totally promoted the movie to make it look all heart-warming, but you watch him fall and fall...he loses his wife, his job, his house, his spot in the homeless shelter, his money, his pride, etc. And then for about 2 seconds at the end he gives a very short speech about how he's so happy that things might work out. For this movie, "things might work out" constitutes the happy ending. I will say that Will Smith deserved his Oscar nod, and his kid is terrific....but he runs everywhere - to work, from work, to the homeless shelter, to pick up his kid, everywhere. It gets exhausting just watching it. Although if you know the real story, they work out really well, they just didn't put ANY Of that in the movie. In the VERY last shot, you see Will and his son walking down a hill in San Fran and a well-dressed guy walks across the screen behind them....that's the real guy today. It's very draining and energy sapping...thus, I strongly recommend against it. There's just no relief from the stress. Like in "Cold Mountain", there are moment of levity to keep the sadness away; and, though it ends very sadly, you still feel like the good moments outweigh the bad. Sadly this is not the case in a movie with happyness in its title.

Well, that's a concise bit of our conversation about it that prompted the suggestion for a blog. I have other things I'll add in a bit.