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Friday, January 27, 2012

Variations on a Theme: Perfect Strangers

Variations on a Theme looks at television theme songs/opening credit sequences and breaks them down for the average viewer.



Program: Perfect Strangers (1986-1993)

The Song: I kind of love the opening harmonica riff. Then that dude starts singing, and I expect everybody to pull Mentos out of their pants. Seriously. This song sounds like the world's longest and most earnest commercial for mint candies.

It's this earnestness, however, that makes me enjoy the song so much. No one should be this passionate about Perfect Strangers. I mean, I loved Balki's hijinks as a child, but, hell, Full House was appointment viewing when I was younger. Obviously, I didn't ask much from my sitcoms in the early 90's, just silly accents and occasional dances of joy. I also didn't think about the theme song when I was a kid. It was just this musical distraction keeping me from my weekly Balki fix. These days, as a grown man with a vast knowledge of kitsch and it's many benefits to the human body, I can fully enjoy a stupid song like "Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now."

Here's a little look at my private life if you care: Every few months, me and my wife will randomly enter into some weird sitcom theme song sing-off. She'll sing a little "Growing Pains," I'll follow that up with "Family Matters" or my version of "Who's the Boss" ("There's a time for cats and a time for kittens/I like cats and kittens too."), she'll come in with a little "Charles in Charge," and I'll do a little "Full House." The point is, we know all of these songs by heart. I've known the Perfect Strangers theme song by heart since I was a young man. That's either really sick or kinda cool. Probably a combination of the two.

But these were songs you could memorize and sing over and over again. They were actual songs. Not great songs, but catchy, memorable, real ones, with verses and choruses and everything. And "Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now" remains one of the best, even with its repetition of "on the wings of my dreams." That's a little clunky, if I'm being honest.

The Opening Credit Sequence: Pretty much gives us a quick overview of what's happened before the show proper. One of our heroes has traveled to the United States from a country where lightly-mangled English yields hilarious results ("America or Burst." Oh, that's rich.); the other is moving from the comfort and safety of the suburbs to the Big City for the first time. What will happen when these two mismatched goofballs join forces? Why, baseball games, short pants, and wacky slapstick comedy, of course! And that's basically what happens on any given episode, right? It's been a long time since I've seen it.



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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Reality Bits: Food

Program: Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern

Episode: Vietnam

I love food. I especially love delicious food. Food of all kinds, really. I have my favorites. I'm a huge sushi guy. I'll eat just about anything in taco form. I'd eat dinner at a Chinese or Indian buffet every night if it were humanly possible. I sincerely believe that everything tastes better when dipped in hummus. And pizza still tops my list of culinary favs.

I'm also open to new food experiences, so I've decided to tackle this and future episodes of
Bizarre Foods with a little game I'm calling WOULD I EAT IT?

The following is a list of some of the more bizarre foods Andrew Zimmern samples in this episode of his Travel Channel program. Following each food, I will answer the question,
WOULD I EAT IT? and offer a short explanation if I feel one is necessary. I encourage all of you to play along at home.

1. a cobra that has been killed in front of me? Yes, but only because Zimmern describes the flavor as a combination of eel and chicken, two things I actually like.



2. Fried snake bones w/ crackers (pictured above)? Yes. It looks so yummy and crispy!

3. Still-beating cobra heart? No.

4. Deep-fried snake skin? Yes. Like pork cracklins, only snake. You hand me a bowl of something salty and crunchy, I don't care whose skin it is, I'm gonna eat it.

5. Fried snakehead fish? Yes. Zimmern eats this in a restaurant in Hanoi that serves nothing but fried snakehead fish and it looks delicious. And fun. Eating an order of fried snakehead fish is, like, a delicious activity. And the fish might have what appears to be a snake's head, but they didn't serve it (surprise, surprise), so, no problem.

6. Head-on roasted sparrow, bones and all (pictured above between Zimmern's chopsticks)? Hell no! I don't eat anything with it's head still attached.

7. Scorpions? No.

8. 32-inch bull penis w/ testicles? I would consider eating this Vietnamese delicacy if it were chopped up and shoved into a burrito maybe, but when Zimmern orders it, it looks like, well, a penis. Does it have to still look like a dick to count or something?


9. Civet coffee? I don't see why I need to drink coffee brewed from beans shat out by some weird rodent. Just bring me a regular coffee, light cream, light sugar. What do I need to prove?

10. Fried silkworms? No. It was just a pile of worms some lady tossed around in a wok for five minutes. Dress it up a little.

11. Ca say (AKA, "weird, Vietnamese hybrid duck")? Even Zimmern hates this thing, so, no.

12. Shipworms? They come with their own natural stuffing made from the wood pulp of which their regular diet consists. Again, Zimmern says they're gross, so, I'm out.

13. Mantis prawn? Zimmern describes its flavor as "sweeter than lobster, with the texture of crab." Sounds like a tasty combination to me. Mantis prawn also has the distinction of being the weirdest looking creature Zimmern has ever shoved into his piehole.

So, how many of these bizarre foods would you eat? Let me know in the comments section.



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Saturday, January 21, 2012

100 Episodes I Love: #2. "Rapture's Delight" (American Dad) (Season 5, Episode 9)

When it comes to Christmas Specials, you can have your Grinches and your Rudolphs. If you want to spend the Christmas season watching Charlie Brown narrowly avoid suicide for another year, you go for it, man. I like my Christmas specials edgy, profane, and barely about Christmas at all. That's why American Dad's "Rapture's Delight" is not only one of the 100 Episodes I Love, but also my favorite Christmas Special of all-time, along with the sixth season's gorily fantastic "For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls." I guess what I'm saying is, American Dad consistently puts out the best Christmas-themed episodes of anything else on TV.

"Rapture's Delight" opens with the Smiths running late for church. The parking lot is packed--it being Christmas morning and all--and Stan is enraged that the pews are packed with phony, once-a-year Christians. To calm him down, Francine takes Stan into the supply closet/slow janitor's living quarters and has sex with him. When they emerge from the closet minutes later, the church is littered with discarded clothing and the congregation, including Hayley and Steve, the Smiths' children, are soaring into the heavens, buck-naked. Stan blames Francine for ruining his chances of being raptured, which causes a rift between them. After Stan chooses to pledge his allegiance to a man claiming to be Jesus Christ--He's not and he sexually assaults Stan in a trash-strewn alley! Merry Christmas, everybody!--Francine leaves him, meets the real Jesus in a 24-hour diner, and becomes the returned Messiah's girlfriend.

We now jump seven years into the future, to a post-apocalyptic America overrun by demons. Stan sits in a saloon, alone and hook-handed, drinking. He is approach by Jesus who tells him that Francine has been abducted by the Anti-Christ, a goofy villain inspired by the old Bat-Man show from the 60's. Stan agrees to help Jesus under one condition: as soon as Francine is safe, Stan gets to be raptured. Jesus agrees and with Roger's help, they infiltrate the Anti-Christ's headquarters and rescue Francine. During the battle, Stan is fatally wounded and Francine finds that he has been wearing their wedding rings around his neck since the day she left him. Stan demands that Francine and Jesus leave the Anti-Christ's lair, as he intends to blow it up. They do. Stan blows up.

Stan is now in Heaven, being led to his own personal paradise for all of eternity. His Heaven ends up being his home with his family on Christmas morning. It's a Christmas miracle!

Now, I'm sure most of you just read this and thought, "What the hell?!" Is this an American Dad episode for beginners? Probably not. It does however display one of American Dad's strengths over every other program associated with FOX's Sunday night Animation Domination block of television. AD doesn't give a shit. They do what they want to do, no matter how silly, weird, dark, or insane it sounds, and the results are, more often than not, amazingly successful. "Rapture's Delight" is a mini epic. It's also hilarious. Christmasy? Not so much.

Moments I Love

Roger: Oh, I love your religion! Virgin birth! Water into wine! It's like Harry Potter, but it causes genocide and bad folk music.
_____
Stan: Damn your clumsy Christmas sex metaphors!
_____
This explanation of the Ratpure for children:

_____
Steve's personal Heaven includes a buxom, scantily-clad woman riding a cheeseburger-pooping unicorn. ("Pepperjack cheese. It's my Heaven.")
_____
Roger: Didn't you hear the puppets? Demons are coming to rape our skulls!
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What the WTF?!?: North Dakota After Dark

Take a look at this recent advertisement from North Dakota's tourism board. Isn't it so sick? What kind of pervert thought this was a good idea, right? Personally, when I see this ad, it stirs up all kinds of uncomfortable sexual feelings inside of me, and when my sexual feelings are stirred up--yeah buddy--you better look out. Farmers lock up your daughters, 'cause someone's gonna get pregnant! See, I just can't control myself when bombarded with disgusting sexual images like this. Young men flirting with a trio of young women enjoying a night out in Fargo? Gross! It's akin to blasphemy, I tells ya!

Obviously, I'm being extra moronic to make a point. There is nothing wrong with this ad beside the fact that its for a place I have little interest in spending any amount of time in whatsoever. I didn't even know North Dakota had a tourism board! Incidentally, why does North Dakota have a tourism board?

Again, I kid (sorta). North Dakota's Tourism Division released a gaggle of tourism ads this week, but only this one caused an uproar. Seriously, an uproar:

The advertisement was meant to showcase North Dakota's nightlife: Two young men and three women flirt through the window of a downtown Fargo motel bar. Printed next to them is the message: "Drinks, dinner, decisions. Arrive a guest. Leave a legend."

It was meant to be "a little flirty, a little fun," said Pat Finken, president of Odney Advertising, the agency that created the ad.

Instead, some found it a tawdry come-on, prompting the state's tourism division to yank it from its Facebook page late Thursday after it drew dozens of complaints and comments.

One commenter called the ad "sickening," while another speculated about what the people in the photo needed to do to "leave a legend."

"Sickening?" What about the ad is "sickening?" The only sickening thing about this whole situation is the idea that people would actually want to spend their vacation in North Dakota.

(Hold on. I got one more.)

As far as what one is required to do to leave North Dakota "a legend?" I think not committing suicide is a good start. (BURN!!!)

I honestly can't figure out the hoopla surrounding this ad. Are the citizens of North Dakota so hopelessly repressed that the mere suggestion that young people sometimes find one other sexually appealing incites them to fits of confused anger? For Pete's sake, the women in this ad aren't even dressed provocatively. I'd get it (a little) if the women were gussied up in stripper gear and the men were displaying their boners proudly through their unzipped flies, but they're not. This is simply a snapshot of people having fun on a Saturday night despite the fact that they are stuck in North Dakota.
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Friday, January 20, 2012

Variations on a Theme: Shirt Tales

Variations on a Theme looks at television theme songs/opening credit sequences and breaks them down for the average viewer.



Program: Shirt Tales (1982-1984)

The Song: Oh, man, this shit is funky! You could make love to this song, you know, until the chubby little panda starts singing. That might be a mood killer. Depends on your partner. Maybe the thought of pantless, cartoon animals in message tees serenading your lovemaking is a turn on to him/her. They say it takes all kinds. I don't know why "they" say it, but "they" do.

The song starts with a funky, bass-heavy beat, but turns into a rather mundane ditty about the services the Shirt Tales provide once the lyrics kick in. Apparently the Shirt Tales can: help you out of a jam; motivate you in some unexplained way if you find yourself paralyzed with fear; and/or assist you when the going gets tough and/or rough. You know what that means: dead hooker disposal.

The Opening Credit Sequence: You know, I kind of feel like that milkman or postal employee (what is he?) who appears at the end of the Shirt Tale's opening credits and shrugs. I don't have any idea what it is the Shirt Tales can do. They have a sweet futuristic car that can fly or be a boat, but I assume their services are specifically catered to children. What problems could arise in a 5-year-old's life that would require the use of a rocket car?

I remember the Shirt Tales, but I don't remember their show. What kind of problems did they solve? What kinds of dangers did they face? Does the rocket car have guns on it? If so, do they fire bullets, G.I. Joe-style lasers, or flower petals? I think the Shirt Tales gang had magical t-shirts or something, but other than that, I'm right there with the confused mail-delivering milkman.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

STFU, Aaron Neville!

I have a seven-month-old daughter. For Christmas, the wife and I got her the Fisher-Price Little People's Zoo and as many animals as we could get our hands on. Those little bastards are hard to find. There were always plenty of zoos on the shelf at Toys-R-Us, but never any animals. You need the zoo to hear the animals make their various noises, you idiots. How about leaving some Zoo Talkers for the rest of us, huh?

I'm not complaining. We've got plenty of good animals. You wouldn't believe how a rhinoceros sounds. Quinn also has an ostrich, a gorilla, a lion, a tiger, a bear, a polar bear, a seal, a killer whale, and a dolphin. Now, sure, the zoo in question has nothing more than a tiny pond for the dolphin and the orca to share, but that's OK. I mean, Quinn doesn't care. She spends most of her playtime chewing on Zookeeper Zack's head or repeatedly smacking the red button that triggers zoo announcements ("The animals are hungry!" "There's so many animals to see at the zoo." "The animals are tired. It's bedtime at the zoo." etc.). All that matters to me though is that Quinn is happy. She is welcome to enjoy the zoo however she sees fit, though I do spend probably way too long putting the animals back in their proper areas post-playtime.

What does all of this have to do with the dulcet tones of Mr. Aaron Neville? I'm getting there.

Quinn's zoo came with a DVD. The DVD contains a new Little People's cartoon and four classic episodes. Yes, there is a Little People's TV show. So, Monday night, after Quinn went to bed, me and my wife climbed into bed and watched a couple of episodes. The new Little People's adventure featured some of the dopiest, sub-Dreamworks computer animation I've ever seen, but it was cute, so, screw it. The classic episodes we watched featured sub-Will Vinton-style claymation ("You can see the fingerprints," Jen pointed out several times.) and this theme song:



This is "The Discovery Song." I'm sure you think I'm a huge dick for what you think I am about to write, and you are not completely wrong. This song is dumb, yes. It opens a mediocre-looking children's television program chock full of pumpkin-headed children learning idiotic lessons, true. But I'm not going to waste my time poking fun at the Little People. I love the Little People. We've got so many damn Little People, our house is starting to look like Lilliput. But this song, not unlike a
certain little ditty about gates being left open, worms it's way into your head and won't let go. There's only one problem: the only lyric I can ever remember is the two word phrase "discovering Michael." Do you know how embarrassing it is to be sitting at your desk at work and without you even knowing it the words "discovering Michael" spilling out of your mouth in a Neville-style lilt? It's super embarrassing! "Who's this Michael you're discovering, Matt?" your co-worker who happens to be passing by asks. Next thing you know, the whole office thinks that you're carrying on a gay tryst behind your wife's back. I'm not saying that's happened, but it could! The rumor. Not the tryst.

I anticipate this happening quite a bit--dumb, catchy kid songs hooking themselves parasitically into my brain--now that I'm a father. I don't mind. I love dumb, catchy things. My wife doesn't love that I love dumb, catchy things, but that's her cross to bear. I just never thought I would have the phrase "discovering Michael" constantly on the tip of my tongue, ready to rip without my permission, and, for that reason, I respectfully request that you kindly STFU, Aaron Neville.


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Perving Out presents Wednesday Morning Music: Girls' Generation-"The Boys"



This song is completely awful. But it's performed by Girls' Generation, an all-female, South Korean pop group. Dumb song performed by 9 super hot Korean girls = essential viewing. If there had only been 8 girls in the group, I wouldn't have posted this on the blog. You just made it, Girls' Generation. You're welcome.


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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tawdry Tuesday: The Old "Lost Wedding Ring" Routine

Melrose Place is set in a simpler time when computers were bulky, the GAP was still considered hip, and tired sitcom tropes were all the rage. How else do you explain "Lost and Found," the third episode of MP's premiere season. Billy uses a lumpy computer with the smallest screen imaginable (It looks like the kind of "futuristic" computer you'd see on a spaceship in an Italian sci-fi movie from the 1970's.) to type his first screenplay; the 90210 gang (Ugh! Why won't they go away?!?) discuss Kelly's love life while shopping for jeans at the GAP; and Jane loses her wedding ring during a raucous night on the town with a couple of musicians. Didn't I see this same plot on Perfect Strangers once? If not Perfect Strangers, then every other situation comedy ever taped before a live studio audience. The old "lost wedding ring" routine is a fairly standard bit of business. I guess I just wasn't expecting it so soon.

The wedding ring in question is Jane's. After two failed attempts to celebrate her and Michael's Three-Months-in-Los-Angeles anniversary--because that's something people do--Jane opts for a night at Shooters with Rhonda. Sandy--she of the laughable Southern accent--convinces Jane to remove her wedding ring for the evening to see if she's still got "it." Jane, who is only 23-years-old and most certainly still has "it," obliges and before long,she is whisked away to a dance club by a long-haired, Percy Shelley-quoting, wannabe rock star.

(Re: whether or not Jane's still got "it": While perusing my notes before writing this review, I noticed a blurb scribbled next to the episode title in my notebook which read "Jane is bot!" Fairly certain that Jane Mancini is not, in fact, a cyborg, I believe I meant to write "Jane is hot." And she is hot! That's the "it" everyone's talking about, right? Josie Bissett is drop-dead gorgeous. Why would her character be unsure of said hotness? Dumb.)
Anyway, the rocker goofball wants to speed things up a little, so Jane admits she is married. To prove it, she reaches into her coat pocket to retrieve her ring--a Mancini family heirloom from the old country--and finds that it is missing. She searches the entire dance club, but finds nothing, and returns home intending to tell Michael everything. Michael, however, feeling awful about blowing Jane off at the hospital, has filled the apartment they share with candles and chili dogs. Ah, romance.

Just before the Mancini's get down to some sexy business, Jane decides to come clean about her wild (?) evening. Before she can reveal how totally non-wild it was though, Sandy shows up at the front door with her wedding ring, which she found in a trash can at Shooters. God is in His heaven and everything is right with the world once again. Credits.

Also in this episode...

--Billy finishes his screenplay, "The Big Shock," and asks Alison to read it. She hates it. To soften the blow, Alison makes Billy a tuna casserole. Billy gets mad for five whole minutes.

--Kelly Taylor tries to seduce Jake while they make a lasagna. Jake rebuffs Kelly's advances. Later, the couple is visited by an actress Jake has hired to accuse Jake of being a "crumb bum." Kelly leaves, hopefully forever.

Questions:

1. Was every character on this show an English major in college? Everyone is always making and/or understanding literary quotes that I don't even get and I was an English major in college!

Answered Questions:

1. It's official: Michael is an actual doctor. He's dressed in scrubs, on call, and hanging out in a hospital break room anyway. I'd be pretty surprised if he is simply running some sort of long con, but this is Melrose Place, so, who knows.

Lost Alum Alert:

--Nestor Cabornell (Richard Alpert on Lost) plays a bass player Rhonda and Jane meet at Shooters.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Movie Penguin Monday: #16. Sweet Karma (2009)

Sweet Karma is a grimy genre picture from Canada, a country revered for its wholesome goodness and free healthcare. I've always thought of Canada as a place where people can leave their doors unlocked--maybe even ajar--at night, without fear of home invasion. A land where any disagreement can be solved over a plate of poutine or a friendly, pick-up hockey match. Where the policeman carry nothing more lethal than a wagging finger. And they ride moose to work, right? I thought I saw a picture of a Canadian guy riding a moose once.

Nothing bad ever happens in Canada, but if it does, well, it's really bad. I mean, twisted bad. Remember back in 2008 when Tim McLean, a Canadian carnival employee, was decapitated and partially eaten (ew.) by a psychotic Chinese man while traveling home on a Greyhound bus? That was terrible, made all the more horrifying by the fact that it happened in Canada, where nothing bad ever happens.

Of course, bad shit happens everywhere. Even Canada. Murder. Sexual assault. Human trafficking. Hockey fights.

Sweet Karma ostensibly focuses on the trafficking of humans, specifically females, specifically Russian females. Russian women are being tricked into moving to Toronto for a flashy career in housecleaning, but are instead forced into the city's underground sex trade. The women are forced to be strippers, prostitutes, adult film actresses or whatever else the Russian mob decides is best. It's an awful world. A sick world. And Sweet Karma revels in it.

But it has to, because that's the kind of movie Sweet Karma is. It's a sleazy, disturbing, super low-budget revenge flick, and as such, it is a success. It also isn't terribly groundbreaking.


Revenge pictures are rote by their very nature. A character is wronged, either directly or indirectly, so they take revenge on those that committed the wronging. That's the skeleton, now the writers just need to insert the organs and hang the flesh. The director gives it a little zap Frankenstein-style, and, there, you got your revenge film.

In Sweet Karma, it is mute Russian beauty Karma who has been wronged, albeit indirectly. Her sister immigrates to Canada on the promise of housecleaning work and promptly disappears. Karma travels to Canada to exact revenge on the Russian baddies responsible, starting with the woman who helped her sister get out of the country in the first place. After securing her plane ticket and signing her work visa paperwork, Karma stabs the woman in the head with a knife. One down--three to go.

Let's talk about the actress who plays Karma real quick. Her name is Shera Bechard and she is gorgeous. She never says a word, but her eyes convey each tortured emotion perfectly. I really liked Karma. Until the strip club scene. Or, more accurately, the, ummmm, third strip club scene, I think? There are so many strip club scenes in this thing.

So, Karma is supposed to be this simple, mild-mannered girl driven to murder after the apparent death of her beloved sister. She doesn't want to hurt anyone--to kill anyone--but she feels it is her duty. And I was with her. Until she took her clothes off.

To lure one of the creepy Russian slimeballs responsible for forcing poor Russian girls into a life of sexual slavery, Karma performs a striptease for him, before slaughtering him in the handicap bathroom. The striptease is fine. Karma doesn't perform above what would be believable for her character. She is a very beautiful girl, so it doesn't take much more than some swaying and a pair of half-lidded eyes to get the job done. But then Karma takes her top off.

Karma has the fakest fake boobs I've ever seen in my life. Don't misunderstand. They're fine, but they are fake. I've seen a lot of boobs in my life (jealous?) and I'm fairly certain one's nipples do not naturally reside on top of one's breasts. Correct me if I've wrong, ladies, but I'm not wrong. But that isn't even my problem really. It's more the fact that Karma, a taciturn orphan girl from a poor family, somehow has fake tits. It took me out of the movie. I know they couldn't ask Bechard to remove her boobs for the shoot, but it's distracting.

The "fake boob striptease" inspired me to do some research on Shera Bechard. I discovered that she is, in fact, a Playboy Playmate who, when she is not playing mute Russian girls on revenge sprees, sports platinum blonde hair and the overly made-up appearance of an erotic model. I thought I'd discovered a beautiful, no-name actress destined for greatness, but instead I'd stumbled across a favor someone owed to a film producer.

That's not fair. I already said Bechard is good in the role, and she is. The fact that she is a nude model doesn't change the fact that she gives a good performance. It does explain why her character is mute. The movie offers a dubious explanation--Karma's mother died giving birth to her and as a result, Karma has chosen never to speak--but I think we all know the truth. Shera Bechard has a great career ahead of her, provided she continues to play characters who cannot talk.

Also, one more thing about Bechard. In the "About" section of her official website, the first entry on her list of accomplishments is that she was born in the same town as James Cameron. Um, good job?
The best day at work ever!

It should go without saying that Karma completes her revenge tour of Toronto, but not before the film offers a final twist, which I should've predicted, but did not. The twist, as it were, kind of muddles the entire message of the movie. If you ever plan on watching Sweet Karma for anything other than the copious amount of strip club scenes, I'd hold off on reading the rest of this review. Things is about to get all spoilery up in here, son!

So, yeah, I'm aware that most of you have figured out the twist already simply from reading this review, but here it is anyway: Karma's sister is not dead. In fact, she is shacked up with the Canadian businessman fronting the money to the Russian sleazebags Karma has spent the film murdering in increasingly uninteresting ways. Yes, Karma's sister knows what is going on, but accepts it since her freedom has been purchased and she now lives in a nice, big house.

And that's the end! A frustrated Karma fires a gun into the ceiling, says good-bye to her undercover police officer friend--oh, yeah, I skipped that whole part--and goes back to Russia. The end. The underground sex trade goes on, only now with three fewer players. What, you wanted Karma to clean up the mean streets of Toronto for good? Not bloody likely.

Incidentally, I've been to Toronto, and the streets are already spotlessly clean. Granted, I stayed on the nice streets, but I'm sure the mean streets are pretty clean as well.


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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday Bloody Sunday: the kid from Zits keeps getting worse, Mutts fails and Lio triumphs

What wacky antics is America's favorite teenager (no, not Archie) getting into this Sunday morning? I can hardly wait to find out!

I hate this kid sooooooo much. He's the worst. I mean, he's soulless, right? He refers to the woman who carried him inside of her body for nine months as his alarm clock essentially. That's all she is to you, dude? She probably makes your lunch every day, but I bet you'd be more comfortable calling her "the pantry" than "my mother who gets up at 5:30 every morning to cut the crusts off of my bologna sandwich because I'm a little bitch who refuses to eat his crusts even though they're a perfectly delicious part of the bread." He probably sits down in the cafeteria with his equally obnoxious friends, and is all, like, "Let's see what the dumb pantry shat out for me today. Prolly another boring bologna sandwich. God, I wish the pantry would die already." You know that's what he's saying. Ungrateful prick.

What happened to Mutts this week?

The balls on this Patrick McDonnell! I don't enjoy Mutts for its "witty dialogue" and its "gut-busting one-liners." I like the characters, McDonnell's drawing style. What am I supposed to do with this? Seven word bubbles with nothing particularly funny floating around in them? A rare misstep. Don't let it happen again, Mutts.

And once again, Lio wins the Sunday funnies:

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Variations on a Theme: The Archie Show

Variations on a Theme looks at television theme songs/opening credit sequences and breaks them down for the average viewer.



Program: The Archie Show (1968)

The Song: So, yeah, I'm sorry. "Everything's Archie" is, quite possibly, the catchiest song ever recorded. On top of that, it is really, really stupid. These factors working together are enough to irritate even the most patient of significant others.

The Opening Credit Sequence: First of all, The Archie Show's opening credits were designed to illicit seizures from its viewership, correct? What other explanation is there for the near-constant flashing? I have never experienced any strobe-induced seizures, but I've found as I get older that it gets harder and harder for my brain to withstand any sort of repetitive, flashing nonsense. I have to watch this sequence through laced fingers, eyes squinted. You might be asking, "Why do you have to watch this at all?" to which I can only respond, good point.

Secondly, why is it so important that Jughead is present? His drumsticks seem to be doing all right without him.

And are we to believe that Hot Dog is The Archies' band leader? That seems a tad dubious, no?

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

STFU, Citi Spot Featuring L.P.'s "Into The Wild"

Chances are you've seen this commercial:



Until I searched for it on YouTube, I didn't even know what this commercial was for. So, I don't have a problem with the actual advertisement or anything, I just hate the part when the accompanying song hits its crescendo and the singer belts out the words, "Somebody left the gate open!" Now, I'd never heard this song before this credit card commercial, nor have I heard of this artist, so I don't have anything against her or her song. It's just, every time I see this commercial, I get the line "somebody left the gate open" stuck in my head and at random times in the day, I blurt it out. Doesn't matter where I am or what I'm doing. When "somebody left the gate open" is coming, it comes. Sort of like a fart. Sorry. That's crass. It's also totally accurate.

Because this line has the ability to lodge itself into my brain and force itself out of my body at regularly intervals, I've unfairly decided that I hate the song and it's creator, Laura Pergolizzi, (AKA, L.P.). However, I don't want to be that guy, so let's give the whole song a chance, shall we? It's called "Into The Wild" and you can listen to it right here:



In summation: STFU, CITI BANK SPOT FEATURING L.P.'S "INTO THE WILD!" (L.P. you go right ahead and keep making music.)
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

STFU, Domino's Pizza!

It's a new year. Time to move forward. Leave the past in the past. Turn over a new leaf. Finally let bygones be bygones. It's time for Domino's Pizza to shut up.

Really, Domino's? I've got to see more of your irritating apology commercials in 2012? We get it. You listened to the criticism of your product--criticism tweeted and scrawled on message board walls by people who have nothing better to do with their time then rail against third-tier delivery pizza--and you made a change. Good for you. It takes a lot to admit that your product is garbage. I hope the fat losers who shamed you on Facebook, Twitter, and wherever else, tried your new and improved product and changed their mind. I never thought your pizza was that bad, though, if I'm being honest, Domino's is typically my last resort choice when it comes to choosing a corporate pizza (I prefer Papa John's. Something about the sauce. It's kinda sweet.). It's nothing personal. Your pizza's fine. You're not running a five-star pizza joint. Most Domino's are housed in strip malls between a Dollar General and a karate school. I never expected a mind-blowing experience when I ordered food from a Domino's, just something hot and round with pepperoni on it that tasted generally pizza-esque. On that level, Domino's, you always delivered.

But Domino's felt bad about ripping off the American consumer and creating a culture of pizza disgust with their sub par product, so they decided to turn things around, and they invited all of us to come along. Invited is the wrong word. Invited implies we had a choice on whether or not we joined Domino's on its redemptive journey. The basically forced themselves into our homes, in an effort, I guess, to make us like/trust them again. Hmmmm.



Is Domino's headquarters located in an old Bond villain hideout?

Anyway, that was 2011 Domino's--all "woe is us" and "sorry about all the sucking" and "we promise to do better." It got old. Real old. But, hey, maybe it worked. I don't keep up with business news or news of any kind, so I don't know how things are going for Domino's. I do know I can't watch TV for more then ten seconds without seeing this "we're sorry our cheesy bread isn't good, but we'll do better, promise" commercial. Are they really going to continue this into 2012? And who gives a shit about cheesy bread? I didn't even know Domino's offered a cheesy bread option until they informed me that their cheesy bread sucks. And why does Domino's head chef want us to jump rope with Domino's cheesy bread? And why are people ordering cheesy bread and breadsticks from Domino's or any other pizza place? It's just crust! There's a breadstick on the end of every pizza slice you cram into your greasy mouth. And you know there are people who discard their crust, but polish off six or seven cheesy breadsticks. It should be no mystery to anyone why were the fattest nation in the world. Maybe if more people jumped rope with Domino's cheesy bread, got some exercise while bingeing on their cut-rate pizza...

In summation: STFU, DOMINO'S PIZZA!


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Tawdry Tuesday: LA's Mild Side

For a TV show with a softcore porn soundtrack, Melrose Place is surprisingly wholesome. Married people kissing. Reminders to practice safe sex. Jake's chaste relationship with Kelly Taylor. Where's all the rampant bed-hopping and wanton good times I was promised. This is Tawdry Tuesday, man! A frequently-shirtless Billy is no longer titillating enough.

I cheated and read one or two Netflix descriptions of future episodes to find out whether or not things would start "heating up" at 4616 Melrose Place anytime soon. Here's what I got:

Episode 3--"Lost and Found": Alison is impressed that Billy has worked on his screenplay all night. He drops off his completed screenplay, and she reluctantly agrees to read it.

Hmmm. That doesn't seem very sexy on the surface. Maybe Billy is writing a sexy period piece about young society ladies who find themselves yearning for one another sexually. That might be hot. What else you got for me, Melrose Place?

Episode 9--"Responsibly Yours": Billy, while driving his taxi through crowded streets, spots a lady driver in distress. He offers to help but is not an expert in auto repair. Jake stops to talk to Michael.

OK. First of all, this episode is called "Responsibly Yours." Responsible people very rarely engage in condom-free one-night stands or hot and sweaty Hollywood orgies, so there's probably none of that.

Secondly, "Jake stops to talk to Michael?" Is that supposed to excite me? "Wow, I can't believe Jake is going to take a few minutes out of his schedule to converse with Michael! I wonder if it's going to be like that time he had a conversation with Michael in Episode 2. I can't wait to see what they talk about. This could possibly be the most important conversation in television history! Squeeee!"

Speaking of Episode 2, let's speak about it briefly. It is titled "Friends and Lovers," but don't whip out your boners just yet. Very little love is made, and what there is of it is made by married people offscreen. Gross.

In "Friends and Lovers," Billy gets a job as a cab driver. His first fare is a young woman named Marcy. They bond over their mutual hatred for fake people/love of Italian food. Before you know it, Marcy is spending the weekend with Billy and Alison. Alison is bummed, though she can't really explain why. I think it's pretty obvious that she and Billy will hook up eventually, but for now I'll just assume she was pissed off because Marcy ate her last grapefruit.

Anyway, as their weekend of romance comes to a close, Marcy expresses her love for Billy, who freaks out--understandably--and goes to resident high school fingerer, Jake, for girl advice. Billy tells Marcy that she is moving too fast and that he does not feel the same way she does and Marcy swallows a bottle of pills and drowns in the Melrose Place swimming pool.

No she doesn't. She just goes home and studies for her dental exam.
Look, I get why Marcy fell in love with Billy so fast. He is endlessly charming. He's also nice. I know that's an innocuous description for someone, but, in this case, it is apropos. Billy is simply a nice dude. I get why Alison is jealous of Marcy. Billy is genuine and kind and handsome. Dammit, I want to be with him. Not "be with him" be with him, just, you know, hang out with him. We could go to Shooters, down a couple of brews, shoot some pool--bro shit. If things got a little intimate while calling it a night, then so be it. There's worse things you can do than sleep with Andrew Shue probably.

Also in this episode...

--Jake gets in a fight at the unemployment office and Kelly bails him out of jail.

--Jane's feelings get hurt when Michael cannot remember the exact moment he fell in love with her.

--Steve Sanders attends a barbecue/pool party at Melrose Place for some reason. Seriously, why is he there?

Questions:

1. Why is Michael the building manager? When Jake complains about his faulty plumbing, Michael gets all combative and pissy. It's your job to listen to resident complaints and fix them, dude. But also, you're a doctor (possibly), Mike! Do you really need the building manager gig on top of that? Your wife already thinks you spread yourself too thin and her legs not enough. Why not choose one job and bone your wife on a regular basis?

2. Marcy is clearly mentally unstable, but is she stupid as well? During a "getting to know you" chat, she makes Billy guess what she "does for a living." He guesses teacher or lawyer; Alison guesses astronaut. They're both wrong. What does Marcy do for a living? She's a dental student. How do you "make a living" as a dental student? No one pays you to be a student, do they?

3. Also, doesn't Marcy owe Billy a shitload of money? She hired his cab and proceeded to spend the entire weekend with him.

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Sunday, January 8, 2012

STFU, Durango High School yearbook staff!

Meet Sydney Spies. She submitted the above picture to her high school's yearbook staff to be included as her official senior portrait. Fine, it's a little provocative, but, c'mon, it's 2012, not 1938, a notoriously non-provocative year in American history. So Spies is defying her school's dress code. She's a senior, and as anyone who has ever graduated from high school--sorry, drop-outs and GED recipients--can tell you, seniors have got carte blanche to do whatever the balls they want. If a senior feels like having lunch off campus, that senior has lunch off campus. If a senior doesn't like your face, that senior is fully within his or her rights to bully you mercilessly until you are driven to live-Tweet your own slow suicide by Advil overdose. And if a senior wants to look like a brazen hussy in her senior photo, then you darn well better publish said photo in your yearbook.

But Durango High's yearbook stuff ain't having it. No, they've rejected Spies' yearbook photo. But why, yearbook staff? Why?

“We are an award-winning yearbook. We don’t want to diminish the quality with something that can be seen as unprofessional,” student [and mouth-breathing lame-o] Brian Jaramillo told the paper on Thursday.

NERD ALERT!!!

Award-winning yearbook? What the hell kind of weird organization hands out awards to high school yearbooks? And if there are award-winning yearbooks, there must be a nomination process. And voting. Who has the time and the fortitude to comb through hundreds of thousands of high school yearbooks, nominating the "best" ones, presenting these nominations to an academy of yearbook aficionados to decide which is the very "best," and tallying the resulting votes? Nobody has the time to do this, therefore, your yearbook is not award-winning, Brian. Publish Sydney's picture and get back to your World of Warcraft campaign.

In summation: STFU, DURANGO HIGH SCHOOL YEARBOOK STAFF!


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Sunday Bloody Sunday: Sally Forth into Candorville!

Today I learned the story behind Sally and Ted Forth's epic meet cute:

Wow. So, that's how it happened.

I guess Sally Forth fans can look forward to a week of What If Sally and Ted Never Met stories. That's ludicrous. Not the "what-if" concept, but my suggestion that there are fans of Sally Forth. You know what would have happened if Sally and Ted never met? Their smart-mouthed daughter never would've been born. More importantly, there never would've been a Sally Forth comic strip. By the way, this pile of shit is on the front page of the News & Observer's Sunday comics page.

And in this morning's installment of Candorville, African-American hipster, Candorville (that's the guy's name, right?), overhears two bums having a conversation:

Blonde Bum: I resolve never to steal a coworker's ideas again.
Brunette Bum: THAT'S WHAT I JUST SAID!

If you want to read this strip on a purely surface level, this is simply a dumb, old joke. But Darren Bell, the brains behind Candorville--the comic strip and the hipster of the same name (right?)--is never working on a surface level. At least, I don't think he is. I've never read a Candorville that a) made me laugh or b) didn't make me groan. It's not a very good comic. I mean, if you like it, good for you or whatever, but I need social commentary on the front page of my Sunday Funnies like I need to know what the world would look like if Sally Forth and her dumb husband never met.

Both of these strips are on the front page of my local paper's Sunday comic's page. Why? In fact, dig this News & Observer Sunday comic's front page line-up:

--Dilbert: Tired, hacky jokes about office life that were barely funny ten years ago. "Dilbert's boss is dumb and hard to get along with! Hyuk!"
--Sally Forth: Blech. The only thing worse is Marmaduke.
--Marmaduke: Really, News & Observer? Marmaduke and Sally Forth on the same page? Do you hate joy that much?
--Red and Rover: There is a certain sweetness to this strip about a boy and his dog, but it isn't particularly fun. I best thing I can say about Red and Rover is that it is largely inoffensive.
--Candorville: Ugh.
--Mutts: Now this one I like! The front page should be one big Mutts.

Anyway, I know Bell is trying to say something with this thing, but I don't know what it is. Maybe I'm too dumb. Let me know what you think in the comments.

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Saturday Morning News Bits: inappropriate groping, art criticism, drunk puppies, and pastor sex

1. WAIT, IT'S ILLEGAL TO GROPE YOUR TRANSGENDERED NEPHEW NOW???

Folks, it is only the first weekend in 2012 and we already have the weirdest story of the year! If this is any indication, 2012 is going to be one wild roller coaster ride of perverted good times. Until, you know, the Mayan calendar or whatever comes to an end and the Earth explodes.

Anyway, film director David O. Russell (The Fighter, I Heart Huckabees) allegedly groped his 19-year-old nephew, Nicholas, who is in the opening stages of gender reassignment, while the two of them worked out in a hotel gym. Russell (again allegedly), like most of us would be, was curious as to how his nephew's breasts were coming along and took the liberty of jamming his hand up the poor girl's shirt and performing some good old fashioned family gropin'. That's something uncles regularly do, right? Feel up their transgender nephews?

So, Nicholas, who goes by Nicole now, understandably felt violated and contacted the authorities. However, TMZ is reporting that the case has been closed and that there will be no further investigation, giving Hollywood director's everywhere permission to grope their nieces and nephews as often as they want.

Here's hoping David O. Russell provides us with more exciting headlines in 2012. Move over, Jon Gosselin: David O. Russell is GEP's new Creepy Person of Interest.

2. IF I'M BEING HONEST, I DON'T REALLY CARE FOR IT EITHER

Look, art is subjective. Sure, there are some paintings we can all agree are beautiful, like, that boner tree fresco in Italy, but then there are some pieces of garbage...I mean, works of "art," that everybody can't come to an agreement on. Like most of what I saw at the MoMA. A lot of my fellow museum patrons were on Cloud 9, or whatever cloud houses weirdo, outsider art. My favorite part of the MoMA, on the other hand, was the delicious pasta dish I had for lunch. Honestly, it was one of the best things I've ever eaten and I have eaten A LOT of things.

So, I kind of get it when a person might look at something, like, say, Clyfford Still's "1957-J no.2," and desire to punch and rub her naked ass on it. To take that desire, however, and make it a reality, well, that's something I can't really get behind. Meet Carmen Tisch, America's newest art critic:

A 36-year-old woman was charged Wednesday after punching, scratching and sliding her buttocks against a painting worth more than $30 million, authorities in Colorado said.

Carmen Tisch is accused of pulling her pants down to rub up against the work, an oil-on-canvas called "1957-J no.2", by the late abstract expressionist artist Clyfford Still.

Tisch allegedly caused $10,000 worth of damage to the painting.

Tisch was charged with felony criminal mischief on Wednesday and has been held on a $20,000 bond since the incident in late December, said Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for the Denver District Attorney's Office.

Citing the police report, the Denver Post reported that the suspect was apparently drunk at the time.

Kimbrough said Tisch urinated after she rubbed up against the canvas at the recently opened Clyfford Still museum in Denver.

"It doesn't appear she urinated on the painting or that the urine damaged it, so she's not being charged with that," Kimbrough said according to the Denver Post.

Listen, if you come across a piece of art that you hate, do what I do: have your wife take a picture of you standing next to it either making a face or shrugging comically. Now that's criticism.

3. AND THEY CALL IT "PUPPY DRUNK"

Matthew Cox can't have dogs anymore. What did you do this time, Matthew?

A British court has barred a man from having a dog for three years after his Labrador puppy was discovered drunk.

Matthew Cox had been drinking vodka and coke with his roommate on Aug. 22 when he left his glass on the floor to go for a smoke.

He returned to find that his 6-month-old dog, Max, had swallowed the booze. But he left the animal at home, and prosecutor Maria Moore told Nottingham Magistrate's Court in central England that the puppy was later spotted staggering and falling over near Cox's home.

I know this is awful, but imagine a drunk, staggering puppy for a moment and tell me you don't smile a little. Doesn't have to be a full smile. Maybe the corners of your mouth turn up for a split second. Maybe it's more like your heart is smiling or something. Not because it's funny to put baby animals in danger, but because it's kind of cute to think about a puppy stumbling around and slurring it's speech.

Incidentally, this is not Matthew's first time being banned from the world of pet ownership. Four years ago he was banned from having cats for six months for feeding his 2-year-old cat Puddleglum a pot brownie. And just two months ago, Cox was banned from owning any birds when he showed the parakeet he was bird-sitting for the weekend a hardcore pornography film titled My Horny British Mum 8. Also, neither of those things actually happened.

4. DIRTY, HOT CHRISTIAN SEX

A Seattle-based pastor and his wife have caused quite a hubbub this week with a dumb sex book they wrote together. Mark and Grace Driscoll's Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship and Life Together has the audacity to, get this, speak in a frank and open manner about sex. Can you believe that shit? 2012 is truly turning out to be the Year of the Pervert, for sure.

Technically, it's the second half of the couple's book that's rubbing many Christian commentators the wrong way, which, incidentally, is the right way for everyone else. One chapter, titled "Can We _____?", finds Mark examining what sex acts are acceptable and unacceptable for Christian couples to engage in according to his interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6:12, an interpretation that religi-blogger, Denny Burk, believes is "inherently flawed:"

I think chapter 10 has the potential to wreak havoc in such marriages where one spouse will feel a whole range of taboos to be “permissible” if he can convince his spouse to participate. This to me seems like a recipe for marital disaster, and I do not think the Driscolls’ requirement of “helpfulness” mitigates the difficulty.

I couldn't remember what it was 1 Corinthians 6:12 said exactly about deviant sex practices, so I looked it up. It goes a little something exactly like this:

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

Here's how I think Driscoll may have interpreted the above scripture: "I can do whatever I want with my spouse in the bedroom, but not everything is as beneficial oral sex, anal sex, role playing, mutual masturbation, spanking, light choking, doggystyle, 69ing, or blumpkins. Like, an Alabama Hotpocket or a necrophilia three-way--who's that helping? Exactly."

I haven't read the book and it is extremely unlikely that I ever will, but come on! Seriously? Christians can't have just as dirty sex as the rest of us? That seems like such an archaic notion. There are all kinds of fun, exciting ways to bang, and you shouldn't limit yourself just because some stuffy, sex-starved religious goofball believes blowjobs are "of the World." Look, your religion requires that you put a ring on a member of the opposite sex's finger--that's it. Once that ring is firmly in place, you get to it, you horny sickos.


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Thursday, January 5, 2012

100 Episodes I Love: #1. "A Milhouse Divided" (The Simpsons) (Season 8, Episode 6)

It seems appropriate to start this latest feature with an episode from my favorite television series of all time, The Simpsons. I've been a Simpsons fan from the time my parents bought me the very first Simpsons Christmas Special on VHS. I've stuck with it through bad times (Can we pretend that awful Cheech and Chong episode never happened?) and good, and remain a fan to this very day. I know it's "cool" and "hip" and "now" to drone on and on about how The Simpsons' glory days have long since past, but I find that this sentiment is usually uttered by people who no longer watch the show on a regular basis. I, on the other hand, do continue to enjoy The Simpsons. And speaking of Christmas Specials, did you see the most recent one? It was really good. You owe it to yourself to seek it out. So, yes, I am a Simpsons fan and I plan to pass this nerdy fandom down to my daughter, in the hopes that she will pass it along to the next generation of TV-watching Lawsons.

But I'm not here to defend The Simpsons of today, but rather to look back at The Simpsons of yore--ye olde Simpsons, if you will but probably shouldn't--back to one of my favorite episodes, "A Milhouse Divided."

First, let me just come right out and say something: I am apparently fascinated by animated stories about divorce. This will become clearer as the 100 Episodes I Love series continues, but for now, I'm afraid I don't readily have an answer as to why this phenomenon exists. It just does. "A Milhouse Divided" is an a-go-go of divorce, with everybody from the Van Houtens to the Simpsons themselves falling under it's tragic spell.

The episode starts nicely enough, with Marge throwing an intimate dinner party to shake her family out of the dull rut of TV trays and pantless dining it has grown accustomed to as of late. The fact that Kirk and Luann Van Houten, parents of Bart's dorky best friend, Milhouse, announce their intention to get divorced during a round of after-dinner Pictionary, certainly isn't Marge's fault, though she feels terrible about it, prompting a classic life lesson from Homer: "Stop blaming yourself, Marge. Just blame yourself once and move on."

Luann seems to thrive after the break-up. Kirk's life, however, becomes a downward spiral of misery: he loses his plush job at the cracker factory, is forced to move into a filthy bachelor apartment, and has his car stolen by a wig-swapping receptionist from a local AM radio station named Starla. He does find the time to record a single though, a melancholy tune called "Can I Borrow A Feeling?," but the odds of getting radio play diminish after Starla takes off. Kirk warns Homer not to take his own marriage for granted, explaining that divorce could happen to any couple. Homer is unconvinced until he finds a package of hot dogs thawing in the sink instead of a home-cooked meal one evening.

Homer makes a series of desperate attempts to save his marriage, which he is now convinced is headed for the inevitable, but his actions only make things worse. Seeing no other alternative, Homer gets a quickie divorce (somehow) and throws an impromptu second wedding in the living room, this time inviting Marge's friends and family and hiring a hip rock trio ("Hope you guys like The Doobie Brothers, 'cause we've got one of them.") to play the reception. Inspired by Homer's romantic gesture, Kirk makes one of his own, performing a live version of his terrible, terrible song. Luann is unimpressed and Kirk is escorted outside by American Gladiator and Luann's new boyfriend, Pyro. Thus begins Kirk Van Houten's run as The Simpsons' most pathetic secondary character. More hopelessly pathetic than Principal Skinner and Moe combined, in my opinion, which is sort of why I love him so much.

Moments I Love

Bart: If you really want us to be neater, you'd serve us out of one long bowl.
Marge: You're talking about a trough. We're not going to eat from a trough.
___
Kearney Jr.: I sleep in a drawer
___
Kirk: I sleep in a racing car. Do you?
Homer: I sleep in a big bed with my wife.
Kirk: Oh. Yeah.
___
Kirk: You're letting me go?
Boss: Kirk, crackers are a family food. Happy families. Maybe single people eat crackers. We don't know. Frankly, we don't want to know. It's a market we can do without.
Kirk: So, that's it? After twenty years, "so long, good luck?"
Boss: I don't recall saying good luck.
___
Homer apparently maintains a poker shack in the swamp.
___
Homer: Good morning, Marge. I was thinking about how much I enjoy your interests, so I wandered over to that theater you went to last night and I bought tickets to their entire season. Look! Mostly Madrigals. Hey, that might be good. Oh! Oh! An Evening With Philip Glass. Just an evening?!? Voices of the Elderly. Mmmmm.
___
Marge gets her hair done at The Perm Bank.
___
Homer: I'd like to file for divorce.
Lady at Courthouse: These things happen. Eight dollars.
___
And, of course, Kirk's awful, awful song.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tawdry Tuesday: It Begins

Before I married my wife and we bought our first house, I lived in a musty, dilapidated, horseshoe-shaped apartment complex that me and my friend/roommate, Jonathan, affectionately referred to as "the shitty Melrose Place." Our first week there, one of the neighbors visited--she was the only neighbor I ever met or said more than one word to the entire time I lived there--and welcomed us to "the 'hood." She probably just meant "the neighborhood," but as a twenty-something white male who had seen Boyz in the Hood and various other films of its ilk, I was sure she was welcoming me to my demise, probably at the hands of a stray bullet from one of those drive-by shootings you read about.

But bullets don't have hands--not even stray ones--and poor people typically don't steal from poor people, so our time spent in "the shitty Melrose Place" passed without any violent incidents. There were non-violent incidents aplenty, but I never heard any gun shots or pimp slapping. There was a funny smell coming from another neighbor's apartment one time, that prompted Jonathan to inquire, "Is that what crack smells like?" We never found out for sure whether or not it was crack, but I like to believe it wasn't.

Here are the things I knew about Melrose Place--the television show, not the cockroach-infested, mold-choked hellhole I lived in during my mid-twenties--before I started watching it for this feature:

1. It was a spin-off of Beverly Hills, 90210, another prime-time soap on Fox that I didn't watch.

2. Heather Locklear joined the cast at some point.

3. A crazy lady blows up the titular apartment complex in a special two-part episode.

That's it. I didn't know the characters, I didn't know the story, and, frankly, I didn't care very much. But then one afternoon, while listening to the Extra Hot Great podcast, I heard a pop-culture critic talking about the aforementioned exploding Melrose Place two-parter with such mirthful gusto, I knew I had to see it for myself. But I'm a completist at heart, so, obviously, I had to start from the very beginning. So, here we are.
If you're not familiar with Melrose Place's characters, allow me to provide a quick cheat sheet. Keep in mind that I've only watched the pilot at this point, so these are my first impressions.

--Alison Parker (Courtney Thorne-Smith): A cute, but totally sexless blonde from the Midwest, who moved to LA to break into the exciting world of advertising. I mention her lack of sex appeal only because this is Melrose Place and I was under the impression that everyone here was sexy and maladjusted. Alison is kinda meh, but the pilot sets her up as the show's focus, so maybe she'll grow on me.

--Billy Campbell (Andrew Shue): Melrose Place's frequently shirtless struggling writer. He's irritating, but not in an overly offensive way. He rescues Alison from her boss's unwanted sexual advances in the pilot, so I guess he's not all bad. He can't dance for shit though.

--Jake Hanson (Grant Show): The damaged bad-boy. Ugh. He's also the way in for 90210 fans, because I guess he fingerbanged Kelly or something.

--Jane Mancini (Josie Bissett): Clearly, Jane doesn't understand how being a doctor in a hospital works. She is always on her husband's case about working late, but the man is a doctor, for Pete's sake. Give him a break, Jane. All of that aside, Jane is, by far, the least irritating character in the cast. The prettiest too.

--Michael Mancini (Thomas Calabro): Jane's doctor husband and the building manager. He seems like kind of a prick, if I'm being honest.

--Rhonda Blair (Vanessa A Williams): Melrose Place's resident African-American stereotype.

--Sandy Harling (Amy Locane): A struggling actor from the South. What part of the South, I'm not entirely sure. In which state do people speak in horrible Southern-parody accents? She's the worst and from what my wife tells me, she doesn't stick around very long.

--Matt Fielding (Doug Savant): A nice, normal social worker who dresses in weird hip-hop-themed clothing for some reason. He is also not irritating. Yet.

So, let's talk about this pilot real quick. I'm not going to provide a long, boring plot synopsis, because, frankly, nothing really happens in the episode. We're briefly introduced to each character, so by the end we know what each one of them is about (Rhonda is an unlucky-in-love aerobics instructor; Jake is down-on-his-luck and being stalked by a high school girl; Sandy is a dumb whore; etc). The episode spends most of it's running time with Alison: her roommate moves out in the middle of the night, she doesn't have enough money to pay her $800 rent (I don't know for sure, but isn't that a steal in LA? Let me know in the comments, LA people.), she meets Billy who expresses a desire to move in, she resists but eventually gives in, she is invited to an important party by one of her bosses, she walks in on Billy dancing with a mop, and her boss tries to drunkenly have sex with her. That's the pilot, or half of it, at least.

The other half of the pilot focuses on Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) from 90210 stalking Jake. He agrees to have dinner with her, but her friends--Donna, David, and Steve--ruin everything and Jake drives off, handsome and broken, into the Hollywood night on his motorcycle.

Can we talk about Jennie Garth real quick? Pretty girl, but is she an albino? She's either an albino or a ghost, I just can't decide which. I'll check Wikipedia.

As I may or may not have mentioned yet, Melrose Place's pilot is not very good. It's contrived, boring, and relies to heavily on 90210 cameos. However, I never once considered turning the damn thing off. Maybe it's because I've committed to the series for this yearlong feature and feel like it would be disingenuous to give up before I've even truly begun. Pilot episodes are rarely any good. Maybe part of the reason I didn't throw a brick through my television is because I'm kinda interested in watching Alison and Billy's relationship develop or learning more about Matt and his obsession with urban t-shirts or discovering the answer to my most important question: Jennie Garth: Albino, ghost, or albino ghost? Seriously. How do you live in California all of your life and stay that pale?

Questions:

1. Do we know for sure that Michael is actually a doctor? He mentions being at the hospital a lot, but maybe he's an overly ambitious janitor or a weird hospital pervert.

2. Is Matt gay or just extremely insensitive? He basically tells Rhonda that he is repulsed by her when she opens her heart to him by the pool. My guess is that he's gay.

3. The 90210 drop-ins stop eventually, right? They're really distracting and add nothing to the show. My guess is that these cameos were a note from the studio.

One more thing:

I like the fact that Melrose Place is about characters who are struggling. They aren't privileged teenagers from Beverly Hills, nor are they working actors, successful businesspeople, or independently wealthy. Alison is a receptionist. Billy teaches a dance class at night regardless of the fact that he doesn't know any dance moves. Jake is an out-of-work contractor. Sandy is a waitress at Shooters who sleeps until noon every day. It'll be interesting to watch these characters develop over time. I also look forward to shit goin' crazy. That actually sounds like a good slogan for one of Matt's rap tees.


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