Friday Recommends, Lost, television

Friday Recommends: Links

For your clicking pleasure:

1. Slate’s TV Club blogs the final season of “Lost.”

2. From Newsweek, “Why ‘Lost’ is a Show About Faith.” (We count ourselves “Lost” “progressives.”)

3. Entertainment Weekly picks 10 Essential “Lost” Episodes.

4. Jay Leno makes an ass of himself on “Oprah.”

5. The New Yorker on Jay Leno’s future: “The prospect of his return to his old show is depressing, like a clown riding a unicycle.”

6. “Ask A High School English Teacher Pressed Into Duty As The JV Basketball Coach After The Previous Coach Abruptly Resigned.”

7. Yes, further proof we are white.

8. Twenty Great “Simpsons” Music Moments. ( “An Amendment To Be” is #5.)

9. Why is Paul Shirley hanging out with Pat Robertson?

10. The best music of 2009 as picked by Matthew Leathers. (Foreshadowing for tomorrow’s post!)


Rest in peace, J.D. Salinger.

Friday Recommends, television

Friday Recommends: Being With Coco

Tonight will be Conan O’Brien’s last gig as host of “The Tonight Show.” While we’ve spent a lot of time talking about how much we dislike Jay Leno, we’ve not devoted much space to saying just how much we like Conan O’Brien. He’s easy to root for. He’s self-deprecating. He’s friends with Triumph the Comic Insult Dog and The Masturbating Bear. Most of all, he has taken the high road¹ over the past two weeks — his NBC jokes don’t have the same bitterness as Jay’s — never easy to do when you’re getting stabbed in the back.

We’ll be sad not to see him for eight months (a non-compete clause will keep him off the air until at least September 1), but we’ll be that much happier when he returns on a different network, one that intends to give him the support he deserves.

Related reading in the meantime: Dave goes after Jay (well put, Dave!); an ode to Conan; Ed Helms serenades Conan; and an amusing, eleven-second cat video entitled, “Do Something, Cat.” Enjoy!


1. Though he did say “NBC is run by brainless sons of goats” in Spanish.
Lost, marital tension, television

2009: The Year In TV

The following conversation took place last week. Ben was at work. Erin was at home on a snow day.

BEN: What have you been up to?

ERIN: Well, the third disc of “Dexter” came in at the library.

BEN: Really? Perfect day for it. I’ll understand if you watch an episode or —

ERIN: I finished the disc.

BEN: Oh. Huh. How many episodes are left?

ERIN: Just one.

BEN: Just one.

ERIN: Jussssst one.

BEN: Do you know when it’ll come in at the library?

ERIN: I just bought it off iTunes.

BEN: Oh I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was interrupting something.

ERIN: Yeah. I should probably go.


And that pretty much captures our TV-viewing habits in 2009: We discovered a new series (like, say, “Battlestar Galactica” or “Mad Men”); Erin watched ahead without Ben; betrayal and hurt feelings ensued; Erin rewatched the episodes with Ben; everyone lived happily ever after.

The big TV-related news of 2009 is that we took the plunge and bought a digital converter … four months after the switch (but only three months after everyone under the age of 82 had gone digital). We’ve never been big “live” TV watchers. Aside from “Lost,” “The Biggest Loser” and “30 Rock,” the only live shows we’ll catch are the occasional “Jeopardy!” or Channel 64 Sunday afternoon movie (especially if it’s something good like Murder at 1600 or terrible like Jeepers Creepers).

Before we get to the best TV of 2009, let’s dispense with the worst.



“The Jay Leno Show.” There are many reasons to hate this show. The simplest is that it’s not funny. Just as simple is the show’s distasteful blend of celebrity worship with sniggering mean-spiritedness toward average Joes and fat children who want to become ballerinas. (Seriously, Jay made a joke about that.) But right up there with both those is that it’s emblematic of a cynical, bottom-line mentality that a show can be as terrible as need be so long as it saves the network money. Would we rather see more terrible pilots like “Kath & Kim” or “Eli Stone”? No. Would we like Leno to talk a long Jaywalk off a short pier? Yes. Please. (Regrettably, this seems destined not to happen. Patton Oswalt chimes in here with an indelible line: “Jay Leno is like Nixon, I don’t like him.”)


“Flight of the Conchords,” Season 2. It pains us to say this, given how much we loved season 1. But the sophomore effort of “Flight of the Conchords” was, with the exception of a couple episodes and a few standout songs (like “Carol Brown” and “Sugalumps”), a disappointment. Maybe one season was enough, guys.


Helen from “The Biggest Loser.” Yes, we are total suckers for this show, although we’re a bit concerned that raising the stakes every season means bringing in even more morbidly obese contestants than the last go-round. (Mike, a season 9 contestant, clocked in at 526 pounds.) But Helen was the epitome of a selfish, back-stabbing reality TV villain … and the person she stabbed in the back (besides America) was her own daughter. Bravo, Helen. Truly an inspiration. (By the way, should we ever visit the Biggest Loser Campus — and studies show that marriage can lend itself to weight gain — we will pray to get Bob as our trainer. Jillian scares the holy fecal matter out of us.)


That was cleansing. We now feel ready for the best TV of 2009.



5. “Dexter.” We have not yet seen season 4, which deeply disturbed one Mr. Link. If, as we’ve been told, John Lithgow does indeed bare all, then we’ll have a great deal of courage to muster before watching it. Season 3, however, brought us a powerhouse performance by Jimmy Smits as Miguel Prado, who forms an unlikely bond with Dexter in their pursuit of justice. The show is well-written, funny and edgy. We’ll take more of filthy Vince Masuka’s office repartee any day of the week. And now we have the final episode of season 3 in our iTunes library until the end of time.


4. “Mad Men.” Another show we’re not quite up-to-date on (although the Mad Men Power Rankings have made us aware of season 3’s major plot points). What’s so compelling about “Mad Men” is that while none of the characters are especially likable (the balls John Slattery being an exception), we still feel strongly invested in them. Love him or hate him, Don Draper is a brilliantly written character. Season 2 found us pulling even more ardently for the show’s women to get theirs, be it up-and-coming Peggy or torrid Joan (whose snub at the end of “A Night to Remember” is genuinely heartbreaking). And give it up for Jimmy Barrett, who graced two of our top five shows, plugging Utz potato chips in one and wearing a jumpsuit as LaFleur’s lackey in the other [see #2].


3. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “30 Rock” (tie). The two best comedies on TV right now. As “Sunny” pushed into even more outrageous and offensive territory (season 5 featured such gems as “Paddy’s Pub: Home of the Original Kitten Mittens” and “The Gang Wrestles for the Troops”), “30 Rock” remained the best ensemble comedy network TV had to offer. Charlie Kelly and Tracy Jordan are both good for at least one laugh-out-loud line an episode. In fact, let’s play a fun game: “Who Said It?”, starring Charlie and Tracy. Pick which character said what line. (Answers at bottom of post.)

  1. “I love this cornbread so much, I wanna take it behind a middle school and get it pregnant.”
  2. “Live every week like it’s Shark Week.”
  3. “I can’t explain it, all right? There’s some sort of weird chemical reaction that happens when you combine catfood, beer and glue. It makes you feel, like, extremely sick and tired and you’re able to fall asleep.”
  4. “Look at the door, dude. You see that door right there? The one marked pirate? You think a pirate lives in there?”
  5. “What are you gonna do, hit him? No, that’s a terrible idea, I’ll tell you why: it doesn’t unbang your mom.”
  6. “I’m gonna kick some ass! I’m gonna rise up, gonna kick a little ass! Rock, flag, and eagle!”
  7. “Remember that e-mail we got from those Nigerians who need our help getting that money out of Africa? We did it! I got the check today.”
  8. “Affirmative action was designed to keep women and minorities in competition with each other to distract us while white dudes inject AIDS into our chicken nuggets.”
  9. “Yes, my good man, I’ll have the milk steak, boiled over hard, and your finest jelly beans … raw.”
  10. “Tell her that you want your privates and her privates to do a high-five.”


2. “Lost.” Season 5 brought us time travel. Yet even as the writers cranked up the pseudo sci-fi geekiness, “Lost” remained grounded in character, with some genuinely surprising developments this season. Ben, for one, hated Sawyer back in season 1, yet found him and his reincarnation as “LaFleur” to be the season’s most sympathetic, second-most-intriguing character. (Jeremy Davies’s turn as Daniel Faraday was season 5’s standout.) Ben Linus remains a figure of endless fascination, though we suspect very bad things are in store for him after he (seemingly) killed Jacob in the game-changing finale, “The Incident.” How will season 6 begin? Will everyone return to the beach, in the wake of the Oceanic 815 crash? Or has history rebooted for good after Juliet’s decisive act? We, for one, will probably wet our pants multiple times in anticipation of getting answers to these questions.


1. “Battlestar Galactica.” We are unashamed to let our geek flag fly over BSG. We tore through the first four seasons on DVD, then watched most of season 4.5 with fellow BSG addicts, the Andolinas. Like many, we had mixed feelings about the finale; regardless, it made for great conversation and, like “Lost,” kept the focus on character, even in the midst of intergalactic warfare. (The face-off between Gaius and Cavil in the CIC was a thing of beauty, fitting for a show that went straight for the philosophical jugular.) BSG was ambitious, nuanced and intelligent, as subversive as anything on TV. Add Gaius Baltar to our list of favorite television anti-heroes, right up there with Omar Little and Ben Linus. And Starbuck fans can take solace in the fact Katee Sackhoff will be the newest member of CTU in the upcoming season of “24.”


There are many shows we did not get to: friends have raved about “Modern Family” and “Breaking Bad” (though we suspect “Glee” is not our cup of tea), while we’ve got much catching up to do on, among others, “Big Love” and “True Blood.” It helps, in a way, not to have real TV; more time — and less distraction — to watch TV-on-DVD, our preferred modus operandi.

And now we count down the days until February 2


Answers to the Charlie Kelly/Tracy Jordan quiz: Charlie (3,4,5,6,9); Tracy (1,2,7,8,10).

NBC Cancels Leno

Only to move him to 11:30 and snub Conan?

From the New York Post:

Network Chairman Jeff Gaspin confirmed that he was pushing a new late-night arrangement: Leno at 11:35 p.m., hosting a half-hour show, and Conan at 12:05 a.m. hosting the one-hour “The Tonight Show.”

“My goal is to keep Jay, Conan and Jimmy as our late-night lineup,” Gaspin said.

He characterized the plan as a “compromise” that gives Leno what he wants — his old time slot back — and lets Conan keep the title of “Tonight Show” host.

Two questions here:

  1. Why is NBC still trying to give Jay Leno “what he wants”?
  2. Who is Jeff Gaspin and why does he hate us?

We’ll explore these issues in further detail tomorrow in our long-delayed, much-anticipated “2009: The Year in TV” post!

UPDATE: Conan says thanks but no thanks on a move to 12:05.


Long Live Jay Leno!

sayeth the other networks.

(From Tuesday night’s monologue: “Oh, I gotta tell you, Kev. I saw paranormal activity. Not the movie, the Phillies fighting their way back from the dead. Very exciting. Very exciting. In fact, coming in this morning, I heard the Phillies’ theme song on the radio: Stayin’ Alive! Stayin’ Alive! Well they’re hanging in. They go back to New York for game six tomorrow night. This is going to be the classic match-up: we’ll see if the Phillies’ Dominican and Korean players can beat the Yankees’ Japanese and Panamanian players. Because it is America’s pastime. And for the first time in 27 years, an American has won the New York City marathon. So now the Kenyans will just be satisfied with winning the White House. They’ll have to take that. God, can you believe it’s been a year since Barack Obama was elected president? Actually, there have been some changes: His new slogan is now ‘Yes We Can, But Don’t Hold Your Breath.'” Those were the first five jokes he told.)


This Is Not Funny.

We acknowledged a couple weeks back that we are not Jay Leno fans. Last night after “The Biggest Loser” we were lying in bed, too lazy to change the channel, and soon found ourselves transfixed by the awfulness of “The Jay Leno Show.” Below is a rough transcript of his opening monologue with our running color commentary.


[Opening montage, with pictures of young Jay transforming into old Jay. JAY and JAY’S CHIN walk through some corporate-looking glass doors. (?) JAY walks to the front of the stage, at which point AUDIENCE in lowest tier of seats stumble forward like drunk cattle so JAY can touch them. (?) JAY walks the rope line and bestows his healing touch. JAY’S CHIN accidentally maims an elderly woman.]

[All of ERIN and BEN’s commentary should be read with sardonic weariness. If you have a hard time hearing that particular voice, just imagine someone named “Chet” talking. Or, if you’ve ever heard Sweeneyblog impersonate Winnie the basset hound, that.]

JAY LENO: Welcome to the program. Well, I’m sure you know by now — it looks like that whole balloon thing was just — that fiasco — was just a huge hoax. Yeah. The bad news for Dodgers fans, last night’s game was real, that was not a hoax. Oh, man. Not good.

[Laughter mixed with groans from Dodgers’ fans.]

KEVIN EUBANKS: That was a great game.

JAY: That was a heartbreaker. That’s why they call it Dodger Blue, they were choking, not getting any oxygen. [to KEVIN] Did you watch the game?

KEVIN: Of course. It was a great game.

JAY: You were still busy thinking about Serena, that’s what it was.

KEVIN: Well you gave me the magazine!

ERIN and BEN: [??]

JAY: Well, the latest on the whole balloon boy thing, it turns out the balloon was actually a model of a UFO. That’s what that they were building. Apparently the kids were making it with their dad, it was a project they all did together. See, that’s something I never could have done with my dad. Because my dad had something called a job.

[Employed AUDIENCE laughs and applauds. Some whistle.]

ERIN: Good one, Jay. Way to make fun of millions of unemployed Americans.

JAY: Now they’re saying there’s a good chance balloon boy’s father could wind up going to jail. Let me tell you something, they do a whole different version of “Wife Swap” in jail.

BEN: Sodomy. Hilarious.

JAY: And now the Learning Channel is suing Jon Gosselin for breach of contract. Now here’s my question. What are Jon and Kate doing on the Learning Channel?

[Uproarious laughter.]

ERIN: Way to go, Jay. Divorce is a real knee-slapper. Let’s make light of that.

JAY: I mean, what do you learn? The only I learned from watching “Jon And Kate Plus Eight” is “wear a condom.” That’s the only thing. I ever learned. Watching that stupid show.

[More uproarious laughter, applause. The ELDERLY WOMAN previously attacked by JAY’S CHIN is doubled over, guffawing.]

BEN: Bravo, Jay. Procreation comedy. Real cutting-edge.

JAY: Well, big news from the White House. Federal agents are no longer going after patients taking medical marijuana or their suppliers under the new guidelines by the Obama administration. President Obama, very smart. He figures he couldn’t appease the left by withdrawing from Iraq or closing Gitmo or repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Well this way they’ll all be too stoned to care.

ERIN: Yeah, we’re all stoners Jay. You tell ’em.

JAY: President Obama today agreed to commit an additional 40,000 troops to help fight Fox News.

[Slightly less spirited chuckling.]

BEN: Pass the hashish, honey.

JAY: You probably heard this story. A high school in Chicago, 115 of 800 students in the school are pregnant. Yeah. Apparently their motto? “Yes we can.”

ERIN: Nothing’s funnier than premarital sex, Jay.

JAY: Well here’s some good terrorist gossip. Osama bin Laden’s first wife has written a book about him. Typical ex-wife, always make the guy look like the bad one.

[AUDIENCE ponders if that’s the joke.]

JAY: No, Osama bin Laden’s first wife and her son have written a book about her marriage. The son said that Bin Laden would get angry if they turned on the air conditioner. So in a lot of ways Bin Laden just sounds like a typical dad.

[AUDIENCE looks at itself, unsure about clapping. Someone winds the key in KEVIN EUBANKS’ back. He responds with a chuckle.]

JAY: When it comes to thermostats, all dads become fanatical tyrants. Why is that?

[AUDIENCE exchanges non-verbal cues, agrees to deliver mercy laugh.]

[ERIN looks at BEN, who begins clapping slowly, eyes closed as he nods approvingly.]

JAY: Oh, this is interesting. Did you know Bin Laden’s first wife was also his first cousin?

[Those in AUDIENCE who disapprove of incest chime in with “eeeeewwww!”]

JAY: That doesn’t sound like Al-Qeada. That sounds like Alabama.

[Shrieking laughter.]

ERIN: Brilliant.

BEN: Way to offend millions of Alabamans, Jay. Just cross them off your viewership list.

JAY: And according to yesterday morning’s USA Today, more and more people are being cremated. That seems to be the thing now. Usually in groups of eleven while wearing Tennessee Titans uniforms.

[SCOOTER THOMAS barfs up hairball on bed.]

JAY: No, no, that’s what it says. More and more people are going to cremation because of the expense involved. So much cheaper than a regular burial. In fact, dying is so expensive now that a lot of people are just putting it off indefinitely. They’ll wait until the market goes up.

[KEVIN emits chuckle before coils spring out of his back.]

JAY: No actually, a lot of people go to cremation because of the cost. But at lot of people aren’t sure, like me. Like I’m going to do both, that’s what you do. Half of me will be cremated, my ashes will be tossed into the ocean at sunset, you see. The other half will be buried in the cemetery. This is what the funeral homes call the “Surf-and-Turf Package.”

[ERIN pulls imaginary noose over head, tilts head to side, closes eyes and sticks tongue out of mouth.]

[EMT workers race through the audience applying paddles to audience members who have flatlined.]

JAY: A 45-year-old Texas woman is being held for observation after living in an apartment with her dead boyfriend for more than a week. Guy was pretty smart, he avoided the whole marriage and commitment thing and went straight to “til death do us part.”

BEN: I knew we’d get a necrophilia joke.

JAY: Hey Kev!


JAY: You know why he didn’t marry her? He had cold feet.


[JAY’S CHIN lodges official protest, drops off JAY’s face.]

[ERIN begins crying.]

[BEN looks for oven to put head in.]


[Stage cracks open. DEMONS FROM HELL pull KEVIN’S dead body into crevice before stage closes up again.]

[Blood runs out of TV box and onto screen. Sparks fly out back of TV.]

[ALIEN SHIPS fly over White House, Statue of Liberty, all major monuments, obliterate them with lasers.]



We won’t even touch the JMZ segment with Mikey Day.