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  • Ted Mann 12:44 am on January 22, 2007 Permalink | Reply  

    Wonderfalls Cancellation Outrage! — two years after the fact 

    Thanks to the miracle of Netflix, I’ve been discovering new TV shows on a monthly basis. And thanks to the cruelty of the short-sighted networks, which tend to cancel a new show after four episodes if it doesn’t get at least 10 million viewers, I’ve been thrown into a bitter funk when every new, promising series is cut short. Of course, most of these shows are a couple years old, so I’m a little late to the petulant party, but the loss of shows like “Freaks & Geeks” and “Arrested Development” pains me all the same.

    The latest show that I’ve fallen in love with is “Wonderfalls,” which lasted all of four episodes on FOX back in 2004. The show is about slacker gift shop clerk at Niagra Falls — played by the charmingly sarcastic Caroline Dhavernas — who suddenly finds that animal figurines and stuffed animals are talking to her, offering cryptic, one-line instructions about what she should do.

    Visually stunning, brilliantly acted, and extremely witty, “Wonderfalls” is on a par with “Weeds” and “Six Feet Under” as one of my favorite shows of the past couple years. It baffles me that some other network didn’t pick it up. Even if FOX and the other networks are ready to throw in the towel after week one (presumably eating all of the costs of producing the full order of 13-episodes), surely another network like F/X could still use it to fill their programming holes, right?

    Anyway, be sure to rent the DVDs (it’s not on iTunes), or check out some of the short clips on YouTube. Here’s the unaired pilot (which doesn’t have the totally kick ass theme song, but you still get the idea):

  • Ted Mann 1:52 am on December 29, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    Listapalooza: My top 10 TV shows of 2006 

    Because I can’t pick just five …

    1. Lost
    2. Weeds
    3. Big Love
    4. The Colbert Report
    5. Heros
    6. The Daily Show
    7. The Office
    8. 30 Rock
    9. The Sopranos It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
    10. The View (which I never actually watch live or TiVo, but has put on an awful good show judging by the umpteen YouTube segments I’ve seen while researching for Suburbarazzi)

    Damn, I watch a lot of TV, don’t I?

  • Ted Mann 8:30 pm on November 17, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    7 New Wonders go Splat 

    GMA finished unveiling it’s “7 New Wonders of the World” today and, well, let’s just say that it was very consistent. Consistently bad.

    Picking up where I left off in my last post, the sixth wonder is the Mayan Pyramids. Now, to be fair, this is just about the closest thing to a Wonder (capital W) that the numskulls at GMA and USA Today have named so far, but still, the Mayans built pyramids in many countries. It’s kind of like saying that skyscrapers are a modern wonder. OK, I guess they’re a modern building trend, but why not pick one? The ancient wonder list went with the Great Pyramid at Giza, not all pyramids. Likewise, you wouldn’t say skyscrapers, you’d pick the Empire State building or Sears Tower or Petronis Towers. Gotta be specific.

    The seventh wonder was quite possibly the most absurd of all: The Great Migration: Circle of Life. Ugh. We’re talking about the animal patterns of the Serengeti and the Masai Mara plains in the heart of East Africa. This is such an unbelievably dopey wonder — ah, what’s the point.

    Frustrated by this utter disaster — a fundamentally good idea that was well promoted and well executed by the GMA team, but horribly conceived of by the expert panelists (if only they could shitcan those turkeys) — I bitched on the GMA message board. But then I decided to do something far more productive: vote on the “New 7 Wonders” project (note the inverted 7 and New), which actually gets it.

    The vote totals won’t be revealed until 7/7/07, but at least the nominees are all drawn from the same rational, logical pool of man-made marvels. So at last, I have peace with the Wonders.

  • Ted Mann 9:32 am on November 15, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    7 New Wonders go from stupendous to stupid 

    This whole “7 New Wonders of the World” project, a joint venture between Good Morning America and USA Today, seemed extremely promising at first. They had cutie Kate Snow moderating a panel of experts (Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Pico Iyer, Bruce Feiler), a ridonculous amount of pre-project hype (billboards, promos, and a sad, sad attempt at viral YouTube video), and most important, a genuinely good idea (I’m thinking of copying the whole 7 Wonders package for one of the magazines I edit). Then they actually started revealing the wonders last week, one day at a time.

    1. Potala Palace (Lhasa, Tibet): OK, haven’t ever heard of this place and it’s not terribly pretty, but a giant architectural marvel at the top of the world — I’m feeling you.

    2. Old City of Jerusalem (Jerusalem, Israel): Uh, isn’t it kind of cheating to pick a whole city? Why not Paris or New York? But that aside, yes, Jerusalem still passes the smell test — i.e. it’s a wonderous place I’d like to visit.

    3. Polar Ice Caps (Iceland): Oh, come on! We’re opening this up to natural wonders? I’m starting to imagine the Wonders experts debating: “Why not the Earth’s core? No, what about the moon? We could do those new moon — I love RX230!”

    4. Hawaiian National Marine Monument (Hawaii, USA): Ugh. Clearly the wheels have fallen off this project. This barrier reef is nothing compared to the one that’s actually “Great” in Australia, or the one off Belize. This is yet another natural wonder (which honestly should be a totally different list), and not even a very good one at that.

    5. The Internet (Everywhere!): Retarded. Simply retarded.

    OK, the Internet may have changed all our lives, but it’s not a capitalized Wonder of the World. Nor is the economy or television or Apple computer or the blogosphere or marijuana or monkey torture. Let’s make this clear: Wonder of the World means massive man-made structure that people from all over the world would be interested in seeing! It’s a simple conceit. These guys get it.

    The ancient ones, now called the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World (which are all but gone, except for the Pyramid of Giza), were essentially a list of tourist destinations put together in the 2nd Century BC by a famous writer. Perhaps that’s what GMA and USA Today should have done here: pick one really good writer (that lady who penned “1000 Places to See Before You Die,” maybe) and asked them to come up with one solid list. Not this silly, stupid list that seems like it was put together by a committee of kindergarteners.

  • Ted Mann 8:33 am on August 10, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    Why I Want Weeds, Season 2, on iTunes 

    I don’t know if purchasing your first full TV show season on iTunes qualifies as a technological rite of passage, but if it does, I’m guessing it falls somewhere between the intellectual self-indulgance of downloading the New Yorker podcast at Audible and the willful absurdity of creating your own Wikipedia entry.

    At any rate, I think I’m going to finally make the plunge by buying Weeds Season 2. Ever since ravenously watching Weed Season 1 on DVD — and proclaiming it the best sitcom I’ve seen since, well, ever — I’ve been eagerly looking forward to the encore. It premieres this coming Monday, August 14. However, I’ve gamed out the costs, and ever though iTunes’ $20 cost for the season seems steep, it’s still cheaper than subscribing to Showtime for 3+ months. I suppose I could wait for the show to graduate to Netflix (probably sometime in mid-2007), but that’s just going to take far too long.

    There’s no link to Season 2 on iTunes yet, but you can link to Season 1 here.

  • Ted Mann 10:38 pm on June 2, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    Colbert Nation, Meet Mann Nation 

    There are plenty of ways to measure one’s journalistic career. But since the National Magazine Awards snubbed me yet again, and my ongoing competition with Elif Batuman has started feeling pathetically one-sided (her second article in The New Yorker, about the reconstruction of the historic St. Petersburg House of Ice, came out a week ago), I need some other barometer of cool. Thank God for Stephen Colbert.

     Right before he went on post-sweeps break, he had an interview with paleontologist Ted Daeschler, in which Colbert quesitoned whether Daeschler’s fossil of a lobe-finned tetrapod was the missing evolutionary link between fish and humans, or just part of an ancient freakshow.

    What exactly does this have to do with me? Well, Dr. Daeschler was one of my very last interviews while I was in Philly (for a story called “The fish that (almost) walked away”), back when I was writing for the Penn alumni mags and publishing academia’s mental masturbation. In other words, I might as well be Colbert’s booker, or for that matter, Colbert himself.

    Well, maybe that’s pushing it. But I don’t think it’s too much of an overstatement to say that this validates almost everything about my career, journalistic integrity, and life up until this point.

  • Ted Mann 10:39 pm on May 16, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    My Theory on Lost 

    OK, I’m just wanna throw this out there: Locke is the lost heir to the Widmore family, an extremely weathy clan with a Murdoch-like empire of companies under their control. In the final episode of the season, we’re going to see Locke’s twin, Charles, another baldie (who looks fairly similar to O’Quinn). Charles is the British Widmore heir; Locke is the American (as referred to in the last official Lost Podcast). For those who’ve read “Bad Twin,” Locke is Zander to Charles’s Cliff.

    Separated at Birth?
    Alan Dale (left), set to play Charles Widmore, and Terry O’Quinn (right) as John Widmore, née Locke

    The Widmore companies are the ones pulling the strings at the Hanso Foundation and, by extension, the Darhma Initiative and the Lost island. I’m not totally sure why Charles would want to bring Locke to the island (he could be sick, wanting to remove Locke as a potential heir, etc.), but my bet is that we’ll get some clue about what he’s up to in the finale.

    As for Michael, I suspect that tomorrow night’s episode will show that he worked for Widmore and was, in some way or another, manipulated by his employer to spring Henry Gale two episodes ago. A lot of this is based on reading “Bad Twin” and what I’ve gotten off of lostpedia.com (Incidentally, I also like the theory that “Bad Twin” was authored by James Patterson). Although the Lost Experiece game and thehansofoundation.org site have been entertaining and fun thus far, I’m not totally sure how those clues about Alvar Hanso and the company board add up. If I had to guess, I’d say there’s something similar to the plot of “The Constant Gardener” — drug trials and scientific experiments going on in Africa, the Middle East, and hard-to-find islands, plus plenty of other shady pharmaceutical company dealings. But regardless of what the island’s actual scientific purpose is (I think there are many, actually), I’m fairly confident that the Widmores are behind it.

    There, I’ve said my peace.

  • Ted Mann 11:35 pm on May 6, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    The Lost Experience 

    It was only a matter of time until something came along to fill the emotional void left by “A Treasure’s Trove.” Enter the Lost Experience.

    It’s a kind of bizarro alternate reality game that was launched last week, timed to coincide with the release of “Bad Twin”, which is a tie-in book that seems to have all kinds of clues that may or may not explain what the heck is happening on the Lost TV show’s island. Yes, that’s right, I downloaded the audio version of the book and I’m already about half-way through. So far it’s raised far more questions than it’s answered — the only thing I’m certain of at this point is that it was written by Stephen King, but that’s a whole other post. Still, the book is only the tip of the iceberg.

    In last week’s episode, there was a 30 second TV advertisement for an organization called the Hanso Foundation, which was designed to totally blend into the regular commercial rotation, but was actually a clue: it gave a phone number, which leads you to a voicemail system, from which you can poke and prod long enough to get a password from someone named Persephone. Which can in turn be used to log into a deeply buried section of the thehansofoundation.org website.

    I know, I know, this is all terribly pathetic. But as dorky as it sounds, there are the occassional redeeming moments, like when I puched in http://www.badtwin.com — thinking that the book might have its own website. What did it send me to? A link to the word “bad,” which sent me to a video. A totally hi-larious video of cats doing each other from the rear while their owners are out of town.

    It may not be the true secret to Lost, but–well, I for one wouldn’t hold it against JJ Abrams if it was.

  • Ted Mann 5:37 pm on April 15, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    RIP Six Feet Under 

    Ana and I just finished watching season 5 of “Six Feet Under” and, well, despite the beautiful weather today I feel spent. It’s not just because we burned through 12 episodes in two sittings (or six hours at a time), but because — pussy alert — I’ve never cried so damn much for such an extended period of time.

    Seriously, I must need my head examined for not being able to cry when my own family members pass away, but then bawling uncontrollably when Nate Fisher dies of a brain hemorrhage we all saw coming a mile away. Maybe it’s that concluding 5-minute sequence, where we see all of the Fishers keeling over, one after another in a series of flash-forwards, that still has me reeling. It’s kind of like watching a surrogate family die. Only, much as I was troubled by the loss of the Keatons when “Family Ties” concluded, nobody ever died there, and no way was I still getting emotional when I thought about the ending a day later.

    The only consolation in this whole blubbery, pathetic mess was when I did a search for SFU merchandise. Ana had bought me a Fisher & Sons T-shirt after season 4, but what with my sweaty glands, I went and turned the armpit areas yellow — so I need a new one. If you haven’t seen the last few episodes, you won’t have the foggiest idea why a T-shirt like this one on CafePress would brighten my day so much. But those who watched the show should know exactly what I’m talking about.

    Call it a rallying cry, a SFU survivor motto. Like “Sic Transit Gloria,” the words of another great Fisher (Max from Rushmore), it urges us embrace life and to remember that, in the end, you’re getting all worked up over a friggin TV show, you nincompoop.

    Say it with me, all together now: Narm!

  • Ted Mann 5:12 pm on April 15, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    Return of the Love Monkey 

    love monkeyThree cheers for VH1. After CBS decided to yank “Love Monkey,” a suprisingly likable version of Sex & the City for guys, last February after only three episodes, the dramedy is getting a second life on basic cable. I guess that “Save Love Monkey” petition worked after all. Alas, there were only eight episodes already in the can, and no word on whether VH1 will renew it for another season. But for now we get to see the five previously unaired episodes starting this coming Tuesday, April 18, at 9 p.m.

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