Friday, May 18, 2007

Playing With Other People's Words

Depending on what goes on this weekend, I’ll get into some finale action (HIMYM, eh; Office, huzzah!) but first, I’m going to use words from some of the great pieces of writing I stumble onto daily to express thoughts that perhaps I maybe could get out, but most likely couldn’t.

First off, on the topic of American Idol and the overblown controversy about Melinda Doolittle not winning and that somehow being both surprising and the end of Idol. First up, some guy I’ve never heard of from some site I’ve never heard of:

Yes, "American Idol" is a popularity contest. Always has been and always will be. We can gripe for hours over how the person with the most talent should win. But unfortunately, that's not how it works in the real world. We back the performers to whom we feel an emotional connection.

And the truth is, Melinda -- God love her -- never really registered as a dynamic personality -- not with enough people at least. She had the pipes, but not the pizazz.

And perhaps she was too good for her own good, if that makes any sense. From the very start, she excelled at optimum levels and, eventually you kind of took her for granted.

Week-to-week technical excellence doesn't always make for good TV, either. "Idol" fans tend to enjoy compelling story arcs. They like to see contestants grow and evolve over time -- just as Kelly Clarkson did in Season 1.

It's natural to root for someone like that. Rooting for Melinda, in a way, was like rooting for the teacher's pet.

Thank you. This is the most absurd thing I’ve read, coming from Verne Gay at what is apparently’s TV blog.

But I have a point here, besides outrage, and this is it: This may be the beginning of the end for "Idol." The king is stripped naked. We all now know that this show is a farce - smart enough, perhaps, to find a brilliant singer like Melinda Doolittle (and how very rare an accomplishment that was) but so utterly incompetent that it can't even seal the deal. Blame the voting system? Of course, everyone will.

What does that even freaking mean?! I don’t understand. Yes, there are signs that point to producers favoring Jordin – perhaps they feel threatened by her size? – but they gave Melinda the final spot singing in the final three and put Jordin to start the show. How else do you do this but to blame the voters and to blame Melinda for singing songs that were mostly unknown and old?

The next quote is from reviewing/recapping last night’s Grey’s Anatomy finale, which I was guess was really depressing or something. Anyway, want to know why I can’t stand the show, other than hating 90% of the people on it? Voila:

In fact, maybe that's the problem here, a pattern that repeats itself in every story we see: Unrequited longing, rising sexual tension, teary-jerky confessional outburst, lonely montage of heartbroken gazing into middle distance while strummy Lilith Fair music plays, confessional outburst No. 2, all of it wrapping up with the Big Breakup or the Big Sexy Reconciliation. Next week, repeat steps one through six and call me in the morning.

Following in the same vein as Ms. Marissa Cooper, my favorite parts are always the teary-jerky confessional outbursts. I know what you’ll say, Grey’s fans: At least our show didn’t get cancelled. This is true, but leave it to the Onion AV Club to point out the silvery shiny lining of Veronica Mars going to the big DVR in the sky:

Veronica Mars leaves behind a small but significant legacy. Its first season stands as one of the best examples of how to handle long-form serialized mysteries, as well as how to mix genres in ways that elevate every element. The second season, though over-ambitious, was trying for something noble, engaging with the kind of class issues that American TV rarely touches. And the multi-arc third season was pretty good too, encompassing breezy scenes of college life and a few genuinely compelling mysteries.

Cancellations suck, but they can also be a blessing in disguise. Veronica Mars—like Arrested Development before it—now gets to live on in near-pristine form on DVD, unmarred by creative bankruptcy and fan revolt. And it gets to be a martyr on behalf of all the “good TV”—as opposed to the merely “TV-good”—that got cancelled before it could go out on its own terms.

I’m going to spend a great deal of words here at some point talking about why Veronica was so great, but I think comparing it to Arrested Development is perhaps the greatest honor. Both shows had nearly perfect first seasons, nearly-as-good second season and then third seasons that were marred by “Will it get renewed?” and general zaniness and lack of focus. Still, you couldn’t ask for two better television shows, and for that I thank everyone involved.

In a statement that makes me feel really happy for a number of reasons, a British television critic prefers the American version of The Office to the British one:

The series has used greater length to add depth and breadth. Despite the unshakeable belief here in the Fawlty Towers principle, less is more, it hasn't had to self-destruct or decay after a dozen episodes. Given it remains remarkably fresh and consistent at 50-plus instalments and counting, it's an expectation-confounding case of more is more.

If memory serves me correctly, Fawlty Towers was a British show somehow involving John Cleese that only had a dozen or so episodes and is considered one of the greatest television series of all time. If you’re unfamiliar with the British version of The Office, it also had a limited run, but you should go rent those DVD’s and watch them because despite the amount of awkwardness and pain involved, that is great TV. Still, I love the American version, if only for this:

My only problem with The Office finale last night was that while Ryan getting the job was cool and twisty, it didn’t really make sense at all. The fantastic Alan Sepinwall, whose site I hijacked the above picture from:

Ryan getting the corporate job was a weird surprise, and it did lead to his perfectly cold dumping of Kelly, but it doesn't make sense even within a universe in which Michael Scott would be considered for said job. Ryan's been a full-time employee for less than a year, still doesn't have a sale, and if he managed to complete his MBA, it was only in the last few months since Michael lectured at his school, and from a non-prestigious local school, at that. I just can't see a guy with that resume getting Jan's old job.

Finally, because it wouldn’t be a blog post without some reference to Suns/Spurs, here is Paul Shirley and a paragraph I might print out and post on my wall:

I can't imagine how anyone could root for the Spurs. It would be like cheering for cancer. Of course, they're really effective (unfortunately, so is cancer), but I don't know if a roster of such easily disliked basketball players has ever been assembled. Tim Duncan might be one of the greatest players of all time, but the constant bug-eyed complaints and the mumps-cheeks make him borderline unwatchable. Manu Ginobili was one of my favorites when he played in Italy. Here, he seems determined to bring a soccer-style sissification of basketball—along with a strong belief in the power of the bald spot—to our shores. Tony Parker looks like Gargamel. And everybody knows that Gargamel is evil. Bruce Bowen's dirty play is well-documented; his resemblance to Mr. Potato Head isn't. Oberto plays like a dump truck, Elson couldn't get off the bench when I played in Spain four years ago, and Robert Horry—while a hell of a good guy—seems to consistently play on my least favorite teams and then help those teams win in dramatic fashion.


On a completely unrelated note, I'm changing the name of the site for the last time. I realize that I should have never changed it in the first place, but the temptation to honor Jimmy Stewart was far too great. This is the last change, scout's honor. Unless, of course, everyone hates it and someone suggests something better.

Happy Weekending.

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