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Nerd Spot

A shout out to the nerdy and proud.

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Location: Massachusetts, United States

Lifelong nerd, shameless Constitution-hugger, unreconstructed Democrat and thoroughgoing misanthrope

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Next Stop Hermit Junction

So i found a valediction encouraging mourning of the loss of Arrested Development by a writer who appears to be even more bitter and wrathful than i am. the most amazing part is that someone is willing to publish the venting of this guy's inner Howard Beale. Kudos to The East Carolinian for allowing a fellow fruitcake a public forum. Be sure to check out some of the entertaining feedback from the paper's eloquent readership (Aristotle, zen therapist/tv historian, Mr. Hyde/Dr. Jekyll, Walter Winchell).


Stupid people watch stupid television shows

I hope you're happy watching "According to Jim"

Gary McCabe, Staff Writer

November 17, 2005

I hate the Midwest. I hate the South. I hate anyone who doesn't watch Arrested Development. What? You've never seen Arrested Development? Then I hate you, too. You're the reason the best television program since Seinfeld was given the axe last week. Well, it wasn't exactly axed... yet. The writing is on the wall. Nonetheless, you've let me down and I'll never forgive you for it.

I apologize - maybe that's a tad too far. It's just that I'm going through a rough time right now. Here's what's going on: The major networks are going through their "sweeps" period. Basically, the point of these periods is to determine how much the networks can charge advertised based on the ratings during the months of November and May. Did I lose you? Even more basically: the higher the ratings, the higher the price.

So it's during these two months that networks pull out all the stops during their primetime lineup. Cliffhanger endings, marriages, deaths, plot twists - get ready for a ton of them in the coming weeks. In fact, I read somewhere that the big twist on "Desperate Housewives" is that the Marcia Cross character is actually a tranny. Shocker.

On Nov. 7, "Arrested Development" came back after a short hiatus with back-to-back episodes. To call these episodes great would be an insult to the show. They were nothing short of sheer brilliance.

There is a scene in the second episode of that night is quite possibly the funniest thing that I have ever seen: Tobias, dressed as a giant mole, fights George-Michael, who was equipped with a jet pack for some reason, over a miniature town in front of a group of frightened Japanese businessmen - a magnificent Godzilla parody.

Of course, it makes no sense to most readers. You didn't watch "Arrested Development" and you didn't catch that episode. Don't worry, though, apparently nobody else watched it either. Only 4 million people watched "Arrested Development" that night - a paltry sum of people for a major network show let alone a major network show that has won the Emmy for "Best Comedy" and a slew of other important awards. It's sad.

It's sad that people are completely ignorant to this amazing show but, even worse, it's even sadder when you look at what they're watching instead. More people watch "That 70s Show" than "Arrested Development." I had no idea "That 70s Show" was still on television. What year is it on that show now? It has to be at least 1991 by now.

"According to Jim," "Still Standing" and "King of Queens" - more people watch all of these shows and they're all the same show! It's the misadventures at home of a homely, fat husband and his super-hot wife.

In the real world, the only way these guys would ever interact with these women is when he lecherously slips dollar bills in their G-string while "Girls, Girls, Girls" blares in the background. And don't get me started on Jim "my brother's death is the greatest thing to happen to my career" Belushi. What a hack.

"Num3ers" is a show so pretentious that it uses a "3" in place of the "b." I've got a different name for it: "CSI with Math." You can even replace the "i's" with "1's" if you really have to. It's such a stupid concept. The characters are like, "Someone killed Mr. Weathers - get me my calculator."

But the worst abomination on television, and I'm not the first or the last to say so, is reality TV. People go out of their way to watch shows about people that they wouldn't find interesting enough to hang out with in real life. All of the sudden Donald Trump s a reality star? There's nothing real about him. Look at his hair. It looks like he ran over some sort of furry animal with his Bentley and instead of burying it, he just put it on top of his head.

Now I understand that "Arrested Development" isn't the most accessible show. It's filled with inside jokes and callbacks that will go over your head if you haven't been with the show since the beginning. But the show goes out of its way to keep newcomers up to speed with narrator Ron Howard constantly giving the back-story and hand-feeding them explanations to the jokes.

And the jokes come at you pretty fast and furiously. I think that's the problem. "Arrested Development" is not a typical show. It has all sorts of humor. A lot of it is overt, popcorn movie jokes like the Godzilla parody. But most of it is very subtle, intelligent humor that you'll miss if you don't pay attention. And the show doesn't have a laugh track so it doesn't have the crutch of telling people when something funny happened. If it did, the track would never stop running.

I just think we're becoming too lazy and - okay, I'll say it - stupid. Every journalist in the country seems to love the show. Everybody in the industry loves the show. But because it doesn't appeal to the "common man" in the Midwest and the South, the show has been cut to 13 episodes and will surely never be seen again on network television.

I don't want to get to stereotypical but now I understand why those shows about fat guys who live normal, boring lives do so well. Eh, who cares? They like those shows because they can relate. And they don't have to think too hard watching them. It's like the presidential election last year - the ignorant masses always outnumber the enlightened few. So we'll never win.

I'm glad I don't watch those shows and I'm glad I'm not one of those people. I hate the Midwest and I hate the South. I've got to get out of here.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Oh sure I could turn this into a rant about how my fellow Americans blow. Allow me to summarize the bill of indictment. You
  • vote for a lying war criminal;
  • consider auto racing and wrestling to be "sports";
  • revel in your ignorance about science, history, international relations, governance, politics, maths, languages, geography, oh forget it, there is nothing that you won't choose to know nothing about with glee and without shame;
  • adore reality television;
  • cover your oversized, over-egoed, self-indulgent SUVs (i guess the "sport" in sport utility vehicle also includes driving to the supermarket in your upper-middle class Oranian neighborhoods) with yellow ribbons and consider yourself patriots;
  • order freedom fries at mcdonald's;
  • held strong opinions about janet jackson's nipple at one time or another;
  • believe that behemoth corporations need to be protected from lawsuits that those same companies call frivolous (i guess if a phrase gets repeated enough times it becomes true);
  • don't know anything about the Patriot Act other than its title;
  • think that the da vinci code belongs in the non-fiction section;
  • can't name more than 3 of your elected officials;
  • have your vcr tape the war at home
  • can't name more than 2 supreme court justices;
  • can't wait to get your hands on that new lindsay lohan cd;
  • never miss the apprentice.......

.....oh i could go on and on with my elitist screed. But your worst crime is failure to watch Arrested Development, and for this, there is no forgiveness. I concur with the Boston Globe's critic:

A quality show fizzles, and it's your fault
By Renée Graham, Globe Staff November 15, 2005

Television's checkered history is littered with smart, inventive critical gems that never managed to find an audience, at least ones sizable enough to continue to justify the shows' existence on a prime-time schedule. The latest casualty is Fox's ''Arrested Development."

A surprise best comedy winner at last year's Emmys, the deliriously offbeat sitcom was booted from the schedule during the all-important November sweeps. Then last week it was announced that the network had declined to order the season's final nine episodes, meaning the program will probably be done after airing 13 shows this season. Going into this TV year, network execs wanted to see if the show, in its third season, could finally catch on with viewers, but it never happened.

Moments like this would usually warrant criticism of Fox's network gurus for being more concerned with making money than making quality TV shows. After all, shows from ''All in the Family" to ''Seinfeld" to ''Everybody Loves Raymond," all now considered sitcom classics, took years to find and hold the devoted audiences that eventually propelled them into the top 10.

Yet it's not as if ''Arrested Development" was yanked after its initial 13 episodes. Though the show had previously come close to cancellation, the network, realizing it had something special, stuck with it for 2 1/2 seasons. In the bottom-line business of TV programming, ''Arrested Development" just didn't garner enough of an audience. From a paltry average of 6 million viewers last year, the show had slipped to 4 million this season.

So maybe it's time to blame the viewers.

See, while everyone loves to condemn TV as a wasteland filled with lowbrow programs such as ''Trading Spouses," also on Fox, there's often a struggle when something like ''Arrested Development" comes along. Yes, the show is challenging, with bizarre characters and labyrinthine subplots, but any single episode was laugh-out loud funnier than an entire season of ABC's ''Freddie," which, by the way, was picked for the entire season.

Oh, and did I mention that ''Freddie" draws about twice as many viewers as ''Arrested Development"?

I came late to ''Arrested Development." While I am wont to complain about the dearth of worthwhile TV programs, (which translated means shows I might like), I initially resisted watching the Fox comedy about the selfish and scheming Bluth family. I feared that, like HBO's ''Six Feet Under," the show would buckle under too much forced quirk and that compelling storytelling would be submerged by wackiness run amok.

Still, after numerous friends and colleagues crowed about the show, I began renting the first season on DVD. Yes, the show was quirky and wacky, but it was also innovative, provocative, and ridiculously funny. Truth be told, it was so good, I was hard-pressed to believe it was on Fox. Thoughtful television has never been the strong suit of a network that has inflicted on the world ''The Simple Life," ''Temptation Island," and ''Totally Outrageous Behavior Caught on Tape."

Yet after years under the dead weight of increasingly stupid reality shows, ''Arrested Development" reminded those willing to tune in that network television was still capable of producing smart, scripted comedies. Why the show never found an audience is anyone's guess; then again we're talking about a national viewership content to overdose on three different versions of the ''CSI" franchise a week.

If only Fox could have hung in there, as NBC did with ''Homicide: Life on the Street," arguably the best police drama in TV history. From 1993 to 1999, the show anchored the network's Friday night lineup with a stellar ensemble cast, led by Andre Braugher's brilliant performance as the difficult, erudite Detective Frank Pembleton. Yet, the show was never a hit, never won a best drama Emmy (it was never even nominated), never received the attention of such contemporaries as ABC's long-running ''NYPD Blue." Still NBC brought the show back season after season, perhaps realizing the show deserved to be judged by more than top 10 finishes and shiny industry trinkets.

There's a possibility that ''Arrested Development" could return. Last year, the show's episodes were cut from 22 to 18, but it was still renewed for its third season. This time around, however, that scenario is remote.

So if this is goodbye, here's props to the Bluths of ''Arrested Development" and its wily creators. This is less about failure than about a show that succumbed to the bitter reality of an uncompromising TV universe where millions of viewers tune in each week to pedestrian dreck but can find no enduring place for a series that had already become one of the best of the past decade.
Renée Graham's Life in the Pop Lane column appears on Tuesdays. She can be reached at graham@globe.com

I also direct your attention to the proposition of EW's Dan Snierson:

Save This Show
An EW writer asks cable to save the critical darling from an early death by Dan Snierson

Dear Powers that be on Cable,
What up? I know I've written to you many times before (props for retiring Taildaters, MTV), but I come today with a most heartfelt plea: Would one of you please pick up Arrested Development if and when Fox decides to drop it at the end of this season?

Despite critics' raves and industry validation (an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy; Jason Bateman's Golden Globe), this bizarro series about the ultra-dysfunctional Bluth family still hasn't managed to attract a mass audience (ranked No. 100, it averages a mere 6 million viewers per week). And now Fox has trimmed the show's episode order to 18, which makes me a little nervous. An incredibly limber cast, mathematically intricate story lines, brainy-bawdy laughs — you can see why this thing has broadcast-network disaster written all over it!

But wouldn't it feel oh-so-right for you, cable guys? It's already got a loyal fan base that could spell H-I-T in your ratings universe. HBO, couldn't you use a twisted companion comedy for Curb Your Enthusiasm? Showtime, isn't it time you started competing with HBO in the funny department? USA, you're scoring with material both weird and neurotic on Monk, so why not double your pleasure? FX, you're nailing the edgy dramas, so why not try the only comedy that's brave enough to concoct a plot twist about a photo of a man's private parts being confused for WMDs in Iraq? Look, this isn't about you and your bottom lines — it's about saving one of the first great comedies of the new millennium. I know you'll make the right decision. Thanks (and keep up the nudity and swearing)!

Dan Snierson

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Captain von Schnapps

Entertainment Weekly did an interview this week with Christopher Plummer. In it, the actor let loose with some refreshing honesty on the joys of boozing it up. Check it out:

EW: You did a rapid-fire string of movie roles after Sound of Music, and they weren't terribly successful. Oedipus the King, with Orson Welles. A Tom Jones knockoff called Lock Up Your Daughters! — you were some ninny called Lord Foppington. And you also appeared in a disappointing World War II mystery, The Night of the Generals, with Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif — two other blockbuster refugees.

CP: I didn't enjoy that time. I drank very heavily — as we all did, throughout the '50s and '60s. I drank myself through those bad parts, until I became a character actor. Thank God — at last! It gave me a much freer range, and I began to do versatile things on the screen. See, I always want to be different in everything I play. I don't want to bore the audience with the same performance twice. Or bore myself. Or the crew. That's what acting, to me, was all about. I got stuck because of Sound of Music for a while. I've also been very grateful to it. I have a good time sending it up, and I have some affection for it.

EW: The whole idea of inebriation-as-pastime is passé now. There isn't a bar on every corner anymore — there's a Starbucks.
CP: I know! Isn't it awful? We're back to puritanical times. So many people don't understand, we didn't necessarily drink because we had problems. We drank 'cause we adored it! We adored getting drunk, you a--holes! Don't tell me that it isn't fun! I can't bear that. ''Oh, you must have had some awful childhood, that you drank like that.'' Nonsense! Actually, I was taught as a child to drink. I came from a family that loved wine. I was 12, I think, when I was drinking wine with dinner. I'm glad I had fun and lived in a fun time.

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