Tuesday, August 12, 2008

In Appreciation Of: Dog Days of Summer Edition

Randy Jackson Presents: America’s Best Dance Crew: After initially dismissing the show for the reason many people were supposed to be interested in it (Randy Jackson’s involvement), I realized that he doesn’t actually do anything but show up at the beginning and end of the seasons and fist pound people. With Jackson and his inane commentary limited to American Idol, AMBC is one of the most well-crafted, enjoyable reality shows on, with its general awesomeness being emphasized because it’s the summer and our television options are severely limited. How is it sweet? Let us count the ways.

1) The production quality. It doesn’t have quite the glossy shine of the Liz Gately’s California show, but there are a ton of cameras, the use of slow motion (as called upon by the judges) and the overly-dramatic-in-a-great-way dropping of the banners.

2) The banners themselves. When can you go wrong with championship banners that look like they came out of your high school gym? Is there a site where you can purchase these?

3) The consistently predictable pre-dance pieces, which include Dancer A unable to do Dance B, then pulling it off expertly. Were I managing a crew, I’d definitely take whoever was best at Dance B and tell them to pretend they were horrible at it at the beginning of practice – maybe even toss in some tears or some frustration from their teammates – just to get some extra props from the judges.

4) Much like Dancing With The Stars and in total opposition to Idol, all three judges are contributing something. Granted, JC Chasez is going to make a mention of cleanliness, Shane Sparks will probably use the term “killed it” and Lil’ Mama will talk about the hardness of hitting and why she respects the crews, but at least they all are capable of being effusive in their praise or harsh in their criticism. Plus, you can giddily ask the people you’re watching the show with to try and guess how old Lil’ Mama is, which never gets old.

5) Mario Lopez. Any show that keeps AC Slater gainfully employed – without asking him to do too much heavy lifting beyond announcing the eliminations, introducing each dance and throwing it to the judges after each performance – is alright in my book. Do you suppose his pay check is tax deductible as a charitable donation?

And that’s not even mentioning the dancing, which is usually super entertaining. The last few weeks have had five “Leave it all on the floor” performances just within the bottom two, with Super Cr3w staving off elimination from both Supreme Soul and Fanny Pak (with a Fanny Pak beatdown of Boogie Bots thrown in between them). If there’s a marathon on some weekend afternoon, sit down and enjoy. The finale is this Thursday night, and while I’m not sure either of these crews is at a JabbaWockeeZ level, Supercrew is pretty damned entertaining and will have at least one jump from/fall from an unbelievable height.

Burn Notice: Maybe because I’m just a sucker for spy stuff, Bruce Campbell and Miami – making this the perfect storm – but you can definitely add this show to the list currently containing Monk and Psych entitled “USA Shows I’ll Gladly Watch Any time They’re On.” Season Two hasn’t been quite as strong as the initial run, but it’s still got a lot of charm to it, and the explanations of how to do secret ops stuff is always enjoyable. I’m hoping and praying for the impossible Dexter/Burn Notice crossover, although it may be more feasible and only slight less appealing for the folks from Monk or Psych to make their way down to South Beach. Best of all? They’re all available on Hulu for your perusal on a rainy day.

Pineapple Express: Not the masterpiece I thought it had the potential to be, but certainly worthy of a viewing. I think if I hadn’t seen Hot Fuzz, which is near perfect in paying homage to the buddy action comedy, I’d appreciate this more, but as is, certainly not a minus against the House of Apatow. My opinion on this is slightly less than coherent as we went to happy hour(s) before seeing this last Wednesday and were crammed in the very front row, but thumbs up to James Franco, some of the killer one-liners, the ever-awesome delivery of the line “Thug life” accompanied by a shotgun pump and Huey Lewis and the News getting to sing the title crack in the credits. Gets the same negative mark as American Gangster for not making the effort to incorporate the song that made the trailer great (“Ain’t No Love” for Gangster, “Paper Planes” for Express). I have no idea how they would do the vaguely rumored Superbad/Express crossover/sequel, but I’d love to see them try.

And for those of you interested, the last real summer movie of 2008, Tropic Thunder, is rocking out a very respectable 78% on Rotten Tomatoes as of now. Like I said months ago, if you’re going to make a movie with Ben Stiller, make sure he just plays a totally aloof and moronic actor – or model – and everyone will buy in. And should the award actually exist, Robert Downey, Jr., would be leading for “Best Actor of the Year – Cumulative” for his work in both Iron Man and Thunder.

And some random Olympic stuff:

1) I don’t think there’s been as much collective fist-pumping in the country in a long while as there was on Sunday night after the staggeringly unbelievable come-from-behind relay victory. I never knew I hated France that much, but as it turns out I do, with these Games bringing out a nationalistic streak in me that’s just dying to chant “USA!” at every available moment. I also more or less loathe every single country competing against us (with a few minor exceptions when the puff piece/sob story is good enough), and especially China, whose medal count I monitor and disparage the quality of constantly (Judo? Weight lifting?!).

2) I know they want to get that primetime cash, but NBC Sports not airing the events live across the nation is sort of silly. Trying to say it’s “Live” when it totally is not is just being disingenuous, but at least you’re not dismissing pre-teen singers due to their looks. I just love that these games give the younger generations a chance to say “Well, you better win, or you’re probably going to be executed,” like our parents got to laugh about Soviet losers being sent to Siberia. Oh, human rights violations; always good for a sad chuckle.

3) I really wish the basketball was all on at an hour I could see all of it. The highlights of the overtime game between China and Spain truly made it look epic, and Greece’s total domination of a pretty good German team has me thinking that the United States will be lucky to two-step through their preliminaries on Friday and Sunday without a blemish. I think there is some confusion regarding Team USA basketball and its place in the world after the disaster in 2004, so I will attempt to set that sort of straight.

2008 is totally different. The team is loaded, save for perhaps a little thinness up front, and they seem to realize the importance of playing hard, representing the country right and taking care of business. I’m not sure that the starting line-up is the best one, as Wade is playing better than Kobe right now, Chris Bosh is bringing a lot to the table and CP3 is basically unstoppable, but they’re still working the kinks out before things get real on Friday morning. The thing to remember, though, is all of this talent is not guaranteeing a gold. In a one-and-done game, basketball is far too fickle of a sport to assure anything, especially when you have a Spanish team looming that features seven guys who have had or will be playing in the NBA this season, along with really good squads from Greece, Argentina and Lithuania (who I firmly believe was playing a little bit of possum in that pre-Olympic beatdown).

(My crunchtime line-up for the Americans? Probably Paul, Wade, Kobe, LeBron and Bosh. That changes if Kobe goes into Hero Mode or Dwight Howard miraculously starts hitting his free throws, but I’d feel very comfortable with those guys on the floor.)

4) How do you become as good at something as Michael Phelps is at swimming? Sure, hitting the genetic jackpot always helps, but wow. I feel like he can randomly enter other swimming events just to get a few more gold medals at this point, training be damned.

5) Who knew Nancy Grace was a diving expert?

1 comment:

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