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Sunday, June 29, 2014

TV Hates Me: Hooting Horrors, Roving Eyes and Cookie-Munching Robots

I love TV, but sometimes I get the impression that the feeling isn't mutual.  In TV Hates Me, GEP looks at the dumb things those of us who still watch television the old-fashioned way have to endure just to get a little entertainment from time to time.

1. This Deliver Us From Evil spot:

Specifically, the "chilling" moment found at the 0:14 mark.  

You may have noticed the quotation marks in the preceding sentence.  They are present to indicate that I am being sarcastic.  

In the annals of horror history, the "spooky" utterance of "ha-ha-hoo" by a plush owl will not only be lost, but non-existent, because it is not scary, but, rather, silly.  I have seen the full trailer for Deliver Us From Evil every time I've gone to the movies this summer, and every time that fat little owl falls off the bookshef, turns a somersault and says, "ha-ha-hoo," everyone sitting around me laughs.  They don't hide behind their jackets (very few of them have jackets, as it is summer, but still); they don't jump; they don't pee themselves (as far as I know, I mean, I've never detected a urine-smell in the theater after the Deliver Us From Evil trailer has played); and they don't grip the person next to them and burst into tears.  They laugh, derisively.  Because it's stupid.  An every time I see that owl and hear his ridiculous cry, I am reminded how much I don't want to see this movie.

I don't much care for that guy at the end either.  Full disclosure, he does make me pee a little.

2. This Coppertone ClearlySheer ad:

I recently downloaded the Crunchyroll app on my new iPhone.  For those of you with an active sex life or vast social circle who don't know what a Crunchyroll app is, Crunchyroll is a service that lets you watch a bunch of anime, free and legal.  You can also pay some kind of fee and get upgrades or whatever, but who has time for that?  I am a free subscriber, which means I have to sit through the occasional 30-second commercial while I watch my anime.  That's fine, I get it, but over the past month, I have seen the same three commercials more than it seems is good for one's sanity.  

This one, for Coppertone, is particularly egregious for what occurs around 0:24, where the groom sees our hero--she of the former awful but now, because of Coopertone suntan lotion somehow, totes sexy bridesmaid's dress--and does a double-take.  But not your standard-issue "Who is that? Oh, that's Pam's friend Suzie from college.  I remember her from the rehearsal dinner" double-take, but more like a "Who is that?  Oh, that's Pam's friend Suzie from college.  I remember her from the rehearsal dinner.  I'm probably making a huge mistake marrying Pam.  I'm going to let her know when her dad finishes escorting her down the aisle that I'm leaving her for Suzie.  Oh, hey, a boner!" double-take.  Maybe I'm reading to much into it, but in the words of the "great" Mighty Mighty Bosstones, that's the impression that I'm getting.

Oh, and my suggestion that people who enjoy anime have a hard time getting people to have sex with them is obviously a joke.  I'm an anime fan,  and I get sex on the reg.  Great sex!  Crazy great sex!  I mean, I am married and I never really revealed the depths of my anime enjoyment to my wife before we got hitched, but, you know, whatever.  Anyway, good luck out there with the sex!

3. This hunk of garbage for a product I really like, but now might have to stop using:

This is the worst!  Look, you can like the Transformers movies if you want--I've only seen the first one, and a little Hispanic boy sat next to me on the stairs of the theater and sang songs in Spanish for most of its runtime, so who am I to judge?--but no one can enjoy this commercial with a clear conscience, can they?  I mean, how does an Oreo cookie replenish and refresh Optimus Prime's strength?  Can robots eat cookies?  I thought they ate nuts and bolts and oil and stuff.  Stuff you'd find in your wife's toolbox. Plus, maybe they eat cookies, fine, but how does one chocolate sandwich cookie give them enough power to jump right back into the fray?  When I eat Oreos, I eat, like, four at a time, and all I want to do after is lie down and watch TV.  Robots though are ready to fight it up.  Plus, how was this kid not crushed by a big chunk of flaming shrapnel?  He's so close to that Transformers battle.  

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

100 Episodes I Hate: #1. "Teacher's Strike" (Saved by the Bell) (Season 4, Episode 15)

I genuinely like Saved by the Bell, and, for some of you, that makes me immediately untrustworthy.  Look, I like documentaries, Shakespeare and gay marriage too, so please don’t let my un-ironic enjoyment of TNBC’s flagship program lead you into thinking I’m some kind of anti-intellectual dope.  I’m an OG Saved by the Bell fan, meaning I was doing it way before syndication.  I watched it every Saturday morning, and usually stuck around for California Dreams and Hang Time while I was at it.  Never got into City Guys, though I did watch the few seasons of The New Class that didn’t involve the return of Screech to Bayside High.  Oh, I also watched The College Years, or rather, the College Half-Season.  And both of the movies, Hawaiian Style and Wedding in Las Vegas.

My love (there, I said it) for SBTB does not, however, blind me to the fact that it is a horrible mess of a television show.  Its storylines are laughably unrealistic, the sets are shoddy, and the characters are across-the-board obnoxious, but there’s still something about it that keeps me coming back even as a 35-year-old man whose high school career in no way resembled that of Zack Morris' and the gang.  By all rights, SBTB’s stupidity should enrage me enough to rip my PS3 (how I access Netflix, the current home of every SBTB episode that doesn’t have Haley Mills in it) out of my TV and huck it out the nearest open window.  Here is a woefully short list of some of SBTB’s stupider moments:

--Zack and Slater kidnap a Russian exchange student, steal his clothes, tie him up with ropes and abandoned him in a locked janitor’s closet to win a chess bet they made with Valley, Bayside’s rival.

--Screech spends the night in the mall so he will be first in line to buy U2 tickets, but promptly loses his place when asked if he wants seats in the balcony or mezzanine, and he leaves the line to ask Zack.  Screech also spends this same episode in a superhero costume, complete with foam muscles, for some unexplained reason.

--Mr. Belding has no idea he isn’t actually hearing Bayside’s talentless glee club perform in front of him as they lip synch to a live recording (made by Zack) of a college glee club singing “When The Saints Go Marching In.”

--Because they apparently don’t understand how acting works, Kelly and Slater actively sabotage Bayside’s production of “Snow White and the Seven Dorks” and Jessie and Zack rewrite it without telling anyone.

--Every single moment in “Day of Detention.”

This list doesn’t even begin to log the non-stop stupidity allowed to run rampant through original recipe SBTB’s four year run, but, oddly enough, I’m not really bothered by any of these things.  There is an episode, however, that makes me blood boil, fills my guts with a burning rage and limits my speech to mostly four-letter words.  That episode is “Teacher’s Strike,” and I had to watch it twice (TWICE!!!) to write this review.
Let me give you the quickest of plot descriptions, and then I’ll go ahead and list my many problems with this 22-minute festival of hot garbage.  In “Teacher’s Strike,” Zack and Slater successfully push Bayside’s teaching staff to strike, making it possible for them to get an early start on an unsupervised ski trip.  The strike also puts the Academic Bowl, a quiz competition in which Bayside and Valley are the only participants for some reason, in jeopardy.  Discovering that this rightfully disappoints their friends—who comprise the Academic Bowl team, of course!—Zack and Slater end the strike and the Academic Bowl is saved!  Unfortunately, Screech is too sick to compete, so Zack takes his place, and through cheating, Bayside is victorious. Hooray for cheating!!!

Sounds like a fairly typical SBTB episode, wouldn’t you say?  Well, it isn’t.  It is a million times worse than any SBTB episode before or after.  Want to know why?  Here’s 12 reasons:

1.  Why is Lisa on the Academic Bowl team?:  I get why Screech and Jessie are involved, they’ve been established throughout the series as Bayside’s top students, but Lisa has only ever been portrayed as a vapid shopaholic with very little interest in anything but gossip and MC Hammer (Remember when she wanted MC Hammer for her birthday?  Oh, and she screwed over Jessie’s step-brother for MC Hammer tickets?  Or the episode where MC Hammer showed up at The Max because his tour bus had broken down outside, and Lisa had a heart attack and died?  That was advertised as a “very special” SBTB, if I’m not mistaken.).  SBTB has so many secondary nerd characters, why weren’t any of them the third member of Bayside’s Academic Bowl team?  Stupid!

2.  Why would you need to know African zip codes?:  As the episode opens, Screech is quizzing Lisa on the zip codes of Africa.  What?!  Is this the kind of question that might pop up during an Academic Bowl?  Full disclosure, I was never involved in anything like this when I was a young man, mostly because I hated school and wanted nothing to do with it once the last bell chimed.  (Spoiler Alert: All of the questions asked during the Academic Bowl scene are painfully easy, having nothing at all to do with the zip codes of Africa or any other continent for that matter.)

3. Jessie is filling in for Kelly at The Max: This would, literally, never happen.  I know a lot of people have issues with the fact that Mr. Belding’s office opens into the hallway and doesn’t provide the buffer of a secretary for students sent to see the principal; and that the movie theater our heroes frequent provides folding chairs for its patrons; and the fact that Zack possesses the ability to stop time, but this time you’ve gone too far, Saved by the Bell!!! Jessie doesn’t work at The Max, so why would she fill in for Kelly?  Why wouldn’t one of Kelly’s fellow employees fill in for her while she’s gone?  This isn’t a simple shift swap going on.  Jessie, who as far as we know is untrained as a waitress, is covering Kelly while she’s out of town.  And where the hell is Kelly?  It’s the middle of the school year!!! 

4. Students only care if there’s a strike: Zack and Slater are jonesin’ for the slopes, but they want to leave on a Friday and, OOPS, Friday’s a school day, like every Friday EVER!  How are they going to get to those sweet, sweet snow slopes one day early?  That’s easy: manipulate every adult that stands between them and the snow bunnies they crave.  How do they do it? Well, they start by visiting Mr. Belding’s office to interview him for the school paper, which they suddenly write for now. Tape recorder in hand, Zack first asks about how the teacher negotiations are going.  And Belding tells him.  WHAT?!?  I wrote for my high school paper, and, granted, I went to a private school and there are no teacher’s unions in this state, but I know what high school students want to read about, and it ain’t boring teacher stuff.  No teenager cares about wage negotiations and the like.  Teenagers only care if there is gonna be a strike, and if there is, then, hellllooooo, sleeping in ‘til 2:00 PM and having Pop Tarts for lunch!

5. The dumbest adults in recorded history:  Obviously, Slater and Zack doctor their taped interview with Mr. Belding, leading Mr. Tuttle—he of the ever increasing rotundness— to honestly believe that Belding has no intention of compromising with his employees, and, in fact, believes them all to be “spineless jellyfish” that need to be “crushed,” mere minutes after they've come to an agreement.  Dumb.

6. Welcome to the party, racist jokes: Zack and Slater are successful in their strike scheme, and, therefore, get to leave early for their ski bunny ogle-fest.  They even allow Screech to tag along, after all, they do need some dork they hate to lug their gear around.  Why does everybody on this show hate Screech so much?  He literally does any and everything they ever ask him to do for them, and still they spend the majority of each episode shitting on him mercilessly.  But, anyway, when the boys get back from their trip, Screech is horribly sick.  How did Bayside's Academic Bowl Ace-In-The-Hole fall ill, you ask?  Well, apparently a gust of wind blew him down the mountain while he was wearing his underwear (???).  Slater mentions that Screech made it to the bottom of the mountain in record time, earning himself a spot on the "Polish ski team."  Yep, a Polack joke!  Great job, SBTB writing staff!

7. Teacher's lounge-less: We learn at some point in "Teacher's Strike," that Bayside does not provide a teacher's lounge for its staff.  I subbed for years, in counties both rich and poor, and every school I ever worked at had a teacher's lounge.  Bayside employees, maybe, five teachers at a time, so it's not like they'd even need a very big room.

8. Belding is a puss: In what I find to be the most egregious moment in the episode, Zack and Slater cement themselves as supreme overlords of Bayside High, by removing all of Mr. Belding's already dwindling power, and offering the teachers his parking spot (so they can all be one spot closer to the front door), his office (for teacher-style lounging) and his year-end bonus (for the staff Christmas party).  Belding protests, but not so ardently that he doesn't cave to Zack and Slater's strong-arm tactics.  But, hey, the strike ends, so, yay?

9. And playing the role of Screech...: The Academic Bowl is back on, but, oh no, Screech has taken a turn for the worse and is now in the hospital.  Who's going to take his place???  Zack Morris, of course!  Why wouldn't Zack, Jessie, Slater and Lisa decide who takes Screech's place on the Academic Bowl team?  Why should Mr. Tuttle print out a couple of sign-up sheets and tack them to the bulletin board to find a replacement when he can simply rely on the members of Zack Attack (Oh, that's a bad episode too, but still not worse than "Teacher's Strike.") to make the decision for him.

Quick aside: The scene in Screech's hospital room is marginally entertaining.  MARGINALLY!

10. Academic Bowl rules?: Per Mr. Belding, who is not only the principal of Bayside High, the host school for this year's trivia competition, but also the Academic Bowl's Alex Trebek, in the last round of the game, the controlling team--which is, I would assume, the team with the most points--can pick any subject within the final category.  Somehow, Zack is aware that this year's final category is "Sports," so he has Slater tell Valley's team that Bayside will be requesting questions about football...CAN YOU FOLLOW THIS?!?  I watched this thing two times (TWO TIMES!!!) in order to write this post, and I still can't follow the Bowl rules.  Here's what I don't understand:

a) Zack assumes that Bayside will be the "controlling team," therefore, they will be the team picking the subject, and Valley just goes right along with that!

b) If the "controlling team" chooses whatever subject they want from the final category--which I've already established is "Sports"--that means Mr. Belding has a set of question cards for EVERY SPORT EVER!!!  WHAT?!?!?!?

11) None of that matters...:  When it comes time for "Sports," Bayside is losing bad, but that doesn't stop them from getting to choose the subject (Huh?  Wha?).  And, you guessed it, they choose "Basketball."  Uh oh!  The Valley nerds crammed their heads full of football knowledge!  Too bad!  Dumb.

12. But none of that matters either...: To win, whichever team buzzes in first must answer the following question or do the following thing or who cares: "Name the planets in order from their distance from the Sun."  Hold on, did we just wander into a 5th grade Academic Bowl?  This is the final question in an Academic Bowl competition for 18-year-olds???  OK.  Anyway, Zack does it, Bayside wins, and the promise of end credits reassures me that life is, in fact, worth living, and I take the gun out of my mouth.

And that's "Teacher's Strike," maybe the worst episode of television ever.  You can watch it streaming on Netflix if you want, but I'd hide and/or lock up all the sharp implements and bullet delivery systems you keep in your home before pressing play.  Have fun!

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mystery Diners is fake (and then things get really weird...)

I was watching the new episode of Mystery Diners on mute while listening to the latest episode of Harmontown and playing Two Dots on my iPhone Monday night, when I thought, “Well, this is super fake.”  This wasn't the first time I'd had this identical thought while watching Mystery Diners in the identical way.  As a rule, I always mute my television when Mystery Diners comes on.  The host of the show could have a voice akin to that of a primordial dwarf child, as far as I know.  (If he does, let me know, because that might be worth un-muting my TV for.)

For those who don’t know, Mystery Diners is a reality show on the Food Network in which a mustachioed man and his team of secret agents (the titular diners), spy on the employees of a flailing restaurant at the behest of said eatery’s frustrated owners.  These owners know something fishy is going on when they’re not around, but instead of, you know, talking to their employees, they hire some dude to install hidden cameras everywhere and infiltrate the restaurant with his cadre of community theater actors playing customers and, sometimes, new employees.  The hijinks these cameras pick up and these mystery diners observe are often (i.e. always) utterly ridiculous and deeply suspect.  It doesn’t take a college education to figure out roughly five minutes into a Mystery Diners episode that what you’re watching is pure, unequivocal bullshit.

Monday night’s episode was set in an Italian restaurant in Las Vegas that offered live piano music and tableside magic. I don’t know what the owners’ issues were—because as I’ve mentioned, the TV was muted—but I do know when I looked up at the screen the first time, the piano player was giving away the secret behind the magician’s floating cigarette trick (via subtitles: “You know he does it with magnets, right?), and the second time, the magician was doing the old “yank-the-table-cloth-off-the-fully-set-table” thing (You remember that classic magic trick!) just as the piano player was walking by, sending the patrons’ dinners—including a bottle of wine—flying everywhere, and the piano player herself crashing to the floor in a flurry of red sauce and f-bombs.  One of the owners stormed in from the mustachioed gentleman’s command center (an abandoned building across the street, which I assume is purposefully kept abandoned for the purpose of secretly watching restaurant employees) at that point, and I turned off the TV because I was tired.

But before I closed my eyes and floated away to Dreamland, I typed the following three words into Google: Mystery. Diners. Fake.

First, I perused an article on Radar Online about how, WHAAAAA?!?, Mystery Diners is totally fake.  This information came from former employees of the restaurants that have been featured and what-have-you.  More importantly, there was a link to a Web site cleverly named  I, obviously, clicked the link, and, well, oh boy.
First thing you’re gonna notice about Justin Tribble’s Mystery Diners Web site is all the wonderful advertising.  Then it will slowly dawn on you that, wait a minute, this is the ugliest Web site I’ve ever been to.  But that doesn’t matter, because Tribble is here to expose fakes, frauds and phonies, not win some kind of Best Web Site on the Internet: Fraud Exposing award.

But who is this Justin Tribble?  Well, why don’t I let him tell you:

Justin Tribble is a Christian man of faith dedicated to exposing frauds, fakes and liars who pervert the truth and prey on the weak and vulnerable. He has investigated numerous cases of fraud, exposed hoaxers and liars and has appeared on national television and numerous radio programs.”

While I “admire” Mr. Tribble’s dedication to exposing lying liars and schemers of all kinds, I’m not exactly sure how Mystery Diners “preys on the weak and vulnerable.”  I mean, if you want to watch it, muted while you play games on your phone or otherwise, go ahead.  Or don’t.  Mr. Tribble provides a list of all the restaurants featured on Mystery Diners and pleads with visitors to his site to “[p]lease do not patronize or support these restaurants!”  Again, I’m not sure how eating at one of the restaurants featured on Mystery Diners, or not eating at one, matters.  Food Network apparently doesn’t care that the show is largely made-up, and neither do fans of this family of reality programming.  Personally, I am not a fan of the “re-enactment based” reality shows, but if you are, go ahead and indulge.  We’re all gonna die anyway.  May as well enjoy yourself.

Justin Tribble is not content merely exposing the lies and frauds perpetrated upon the American public via the Mystery Diners team however.  He’s keen on taking down the Long Island Medium, the Ducky Dynasty guys, Dr. Oz, Storage Wars and the NSA.  He’s also pretty excited about the upcoming Man of Steel sequel.

The title of this post promised weirdness, and while you may have just assumed the situation couldn’t get any weirder, you are sorely mistaken.  Close to the bottom of, apropos of nothing, there is a picture of the young woman from the Wendy’s commercials, tied up with ropes.  Fully clothed, but restrained.  “The Wendy’s Girl is all tied up,” it reads next to the picture.  “Learn more at about Morgan Smith Goodwin.” Not knowing very much about Wendy’s latest spokesperson other than the fact that she hocks my favorite artery-clogging fast food items, I clicked the link.  What I found, was a little weird.

What the WTF?!?

Following some unattractive ads for Chuck E. Cheese and Hidden Valley Dip, we are greeted by a headshot of Morgan Smith Goodwin accompanied by a quote from Christian fraud exposer, Justin Tribble:

“She enchants me.  She is all I want and all I desire.”    -Justin Tribble, Webmaster


For even more "ick," Tribble answers some very important Morgan Smith Goodwin questions, but puts his own creepy spin on things to make the proceedings that much more vomit-inducing.  Like his skin-crawling answer to the self-imposed question, "Do people just not realize how great she is?":

"Quite frankly, no, I don't think they realize it. She is a treasure. Is there a single woman who has captured more of Americans' hearts than Morgan Smith Goodwin? I cannot think of one. She is magical. No one looks like her. No one sounds like her. No female actress even comes close to how stupendously attractive she is. Why aren't people paying attention? 

"Now do I secret hope she gains weight? Yeah, I probably do. I would love to see her chow down on those pretzel bun burgers for a month and put on 30 pounds. Nothing would please me more. Will it happen? Unlikely, but we can hope and pray. I just hope somewhere along the line she just loses self-control or enters into a deep depression and just starts pigging out like there's no tomorrow. It's the one thing I wish about her that was different, I wish she was quite a bit fatter. That would make my year."

And how about this answer from Mr. Tribble--who is a virtuous man of faith with a passion for exposing other people's moral ineptitude--when asked if we should purchase the HBO docu-series Cathouse on DVD because some people say there is a prostitute featured in it that looks remarkably similar to the Wendy's spokesperson:

"Yes, I would. I bought it. It's a great show to begin with. It's about Nevada's brothel the Bunny Ranch. Some people consider it some of the finest television to ever air (this is not hyperbole). It's a fascinating look at Nevada's legendary "industry" which is still legal across the state, outside of Clark County and Las Vegas. 

"I highly recommend the series. You can buy it here. As to whether Morgan Smith is in it, well, that's just a rumor. I was told by a good source she made an appearance in it under a different name about seven years ago. I've watched it and there is a girl who looks remarkably like her, but isn't. She's so much younger it's hard to tell. That said, she's insanely hot." 


I think Camper Van Beethoven said it best in their song "Jack Ruby" from 1989's Key Lime Pie: all our heroes are bastards.  Sure, Justin Tribble is fighting the "good" fight against reality television fakery that no one asked him to or, frankly, cares about, but he also feels compelled to provide us with a front row seat to what he's thinking about after he finishes a long day of posting restaurant names on his terribly designed Web site, and, quite frankly, that is something I can do without.  I should've never clicked that link.  Somethings you simply can't un-see.

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