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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Brothers and Sisters Doesn't Impress

My best guess is that by the time I’m looking for something other than football to watch on Sunday nights, ABC’s Brothers and Sisters will be off the air. Then again, I’m likely not part of the show’s target audience.

This week’s premiere introduced viewers to the Walker family, as daughter Kitty (Calista Flockhart) returns home to interview for a co-host position on a political talk show. Plenty of time is spent with the children marveling at the long and still openly loving relationship of their parents (Sally Field and Tom Skerrit). Yet, as the adult siblings begin to try to take a larger role in the family business, questions about their father’s fidelity and business ethics abound. The show ends with the father collapsing with an apparent stroke.

I tuned in to see Sally Field who always seems to bring a solid presence to her roles, yet I wasn’t too impressed. She seemed caught between playing the docile wife and the strong-willed woman. I never quite got Flockhart in Ally McBeal, and her politically-charged character wasn’t doing much for me here. Skerrit’s character seemed promising, but it looks like he was just there to set the stage for a drama about a family that’s just lost its patriarch.

It’s tough to judge a drama series on its pilot with so much “introducing” going on. But this show just seems like it has more drama than it knows what to do with. A show with one scene in which the estranged mom and daughter pretending to reconcile while dad looks on as a person waits for him on the phone for a conversation that begins with him angry that he or she called him at home simply needs to cut back. Throw in an Iraqi war debate, a gay family member, and an uncle helping dad cover up something, there may be a bit too much going on.

Football widows and those of us who will be looking for something to watch on Sunday nights in January may find Brothers and Sisters serviceable. But only watch it for fun while looking for something better.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Studio 60 Starts Strong

A powerful opening launched the premiere of NBC’s Studio 60, which just might help stave off the irrelevance of broadcast television for a while. Not quite the replacement for the golden days of West Wing, which the network has hinted at all summer, the first episode suggests it’s a lot closer than most would have thought any show could come.

A behind-the-scenes look at a weekly sketch comedy show, Studio 60 opens with executive producer Wes Mendell (Judd Hirsch) finally snapping over the watered-down version of the formerly cutting edge show now entering it’s 20th season. Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet), the newly-promoted president of Studio 60’s fictional network NBS (National Broadcasting System), brings back director Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford) and writer Matt Albie (Matthew Perry), previously fired from the show, to save it.

Plenty of sub-plots will keep this show going, but the truly engaging aspect of the show is that it may actually take on the issues facing television. Sadly, it looks like Hirsch’s character is not a regular on the show, but his rant against T.V. was superb. Finally calling out the idiotic junk targeted at early teens passed-off as “reality” T.V. and networks that cower to the religious right, among other things, he is rewarded with his ouster.

Perry and Whitford are both predictably solid leads in the show. Perry’s character has a past with a star of Studio 60 complicating his life, while Whitford’s character is a recovering addict fighting a recent relapse. Both have stepped into new roles after becoming known in long-running shows, Friends and West Wing respectively, with no problem.

Timothy Busfield plays the control-room director who allows Mendell’s rant to go on. His character was always one you wanted more of on West Wing, and the trend appears ready to continue.

Peete and Steven Weber (who plays Jack Rudolph, chairman of NBS) didn’t do much for me. D. L. Hughley plays a star on the sketch comedy, Simon Stiles, and may be the best minor player on the show.

The one nagging problem with the pilot was the immediacy with which Tripp and Albie were hired. Trying to recreate West Wing-like drama, the subject matter just didn’t call for everything happening in one night. If they leave that alone, and truly challenge what’s currently going on with T.V., creator Aaron Sorkin and producer Thomas Schlamme seem to have made Studio 60 a rare T.V. show worth watching.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A 9/11 Suggestion

I used to pass a sign every time I left home that simply read, “9/11 We will never forget.” It was a home-made job hammered into a lawn. I was impressed when I first saw the sign as it was almost three years after the day the Twin Towers came down.

It was barely a month after I moved out on my own for the first time when a buddy at work said someone had flown a plane into the World Trade Center. Some idiot in a bi-plane, I figured. Hours later, the office having been closed, I watched the horrifying images alone in my apartment.

I remember wanting to go back home, curl up in my old room, and have it all go away. Of course, I didn’t, at least partially because I knew I had to go to work the next day, and didn’t want to be bothered packing an overnight bag.

Later in the week, or maybe it was the following week, I read a passionate letter to the editor from a woman chastising football fans for wanting their favorite sport back. She went so far as to suggest the sport should never return, her anger somehow letting her believe any sort of “play” would dishonor the victims.

I didn’t lose anyone on September 11th, nor even know anyone who did. So, maybe I’m not qualified to offer opinions on the subject. But, right from the beginning, I noticed an almost defiant call from everyone to “never forget” that seemed odd.

While everyone, it seemed, put a flag on their car, I refused. I knew the day would come that the flag would get old, or torn, or battered, and putting on a new one just sort of wouldn’t happen. Then, I wondered, what would that say?

Everyone was telling each other how this time things would be different. Things had changed forever, we vowed. We had been attacked at home, and we were more united then ever. Most people wondered why we hadn’t attacked someone, anyone, by the dawn of September 12th – myself very much included.

We were nicer to each other, it seemed. We’d let people pull in ahead of us on the road, hold an elevator for others, and were much less apt to lay on our horn in traffic at some guy just trying to get to work on time.

Five years later, things have in fact changed forever, but in none of the ways envisioned. We’re more fearful, less trusting, and even September 11th and the security issues surrounding it are a familiar political volleyball.

The sign I used to see is gone, along with the flags on every car. I’ve read at least one suggestion that this lack of open remembrance is a failure of some sort. That seems as odd to me as a flag on every car.

I’m sure this will be just one of millions of posts on 9/11 today, many of which will offer bold, grandiose ideas to show just how American we are. At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, I still don’t get how a flag on my car or the like proves I care about the tragedy that occurred that day or my country.

I’m rather hot-headed, I’m told, so I may still be the wrong guy to offer the following suggestion. But it seems clear that we were attacked because others hate us. So, instead of waving an American flag, maybe we could prove we remember by showing each other some kindness, like by waving a guy into traffic whose just trying to get to work on time.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Invincible — Movie Review

It’s been a while since I heard an audience clap at the end of a movie. While I’m still not sure why people do that — who exactly hears this appreciation? — Invincible was deserving of the smattering of applause it received.

Vince Papale does the impossible, and makes the Philadelphia Eagles after attending an open tryout. The bartender from South Philadelphia survive’s training camp, and lives his dream of playing for the hometown team.

I was worried that Disney attempting to depict the fans of Philly was a disaster waiting to happen. An opening scene in the notorious 700 level at Veteran’s Stadium without even the sister of the F-bomb — freakin’ — being dropped only heightened my concern. Some weak male bonding scenes followed, including pick-up games with referees, but nothing disastrous.

Action sequences were surprisingly well done, but there were too many slow motion shots of Papale (Mark Wahlburg). The cold shoulder treatment Papale got from the NFL vets was done well, too. There were also plenty of funny moments during the open tryouts.

There was also a solid potrayel of Papale feeling some pressure, or possibly guilt, as he made even 1970s NFL money while his buddies and family struggled to make ends meet. I’ve heard some suggest that the love interest and relationship with his father were overplayed, but I thought they were fine, especially for a Disney film. The father telling his son he was his new favorite Eagle was a nice moment, and the girlfriend sending him a New York Giants shirt while he was at camp was cute.

Of course, I kept wondering what had really occurred versus when the literary license was put to use. There’s no way Papale called an audible on the climactic play. I also wanted to know more about why Dick Vermeil was hired late in the off-season and what really prompted the open tryouts. (Plenty of NFL teams stink, and don’t hold open tryouts). What I could’ve done without was one more reference to Philly fans booing Santa.

If you’re looking for a feel-good film, Invincible is worth watching. If you’re an Eagles fan, this is our Rudy, and you can’t ask for more.