This is the best news Matthew Brock’s heard since PAX debuted Archie’s Weird Mysteries in 1999: Scott Adams’ ’90s-hit, now-whatever comic strip, Dilbert, is making the leap from newspaper to the big screen (after making a maligned jump from paper to UPN). Legendary if-not-greatest-of-all-time auteur Ken Kwapis (He’s Just Not That Into You, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Dunston Checks In) is set to direct the live-action film, which is already expected to shatter box office records. Kwapis’ somewhat shoddy work directing The Office (“Diversity Day,” “Gay Witch Hunt”) has some clamoring that his experience will translate into a derivative adaptation — one where Dilbert swoons office colleague Alice while his incompetent boss ruins the atmosphere. These critics obviously didn’t notice Kwapis’ uncanny style and unique vision in 2007’s groundbreaking, art-house film License to Wed, where he took the most mundane subjects (Mandy Moore, Jon Krasinski) and created an unequivocal masterpiece. In other news, sarcasm makes a whopping comeback.
Throughout Lost‘s tenure, some viewers derided the show’s creators for not having a concrete plan and subsequently molding the show as they went along. Sure, there was a basic outline on what the Oceanic survivors would do and where the series might ultimately end, but the meat of the story was left up to some meddling. This led to dissolved plotlines and many, many unanswered questions. The show is undoubtably flawed in this way. However, would it have been a better program if the creators knew exactly where they were going from the beginning?
The short answer: Absolutely not.
Well, let me rephrase that: Probably not. A long, coherent storyline containing minimal plot holes that provided dynamic characters, deep philosophical queries, mysterious situations and, most of all, a hella lot of heart, all without seeming contrived and predictable, would’ve made for better television. But is that realistic? Probably not. Television’s format allows for shows to feel around with many different formats and styles until they find the right ones. If a character isn’t working, then cut ’em out. Same goes for a plotline. But a show that’s set in stone from the start doesn’t allow for this freedom.
Lost‘s creators started with a somewhat flawed show — despite an outstanding pilot — which routinely improved as they plugged in better characters, plotlines and themes into the series. A fully mapped out storyline with little room for manipulation would’ve proved to be fatal, and most likely wouldn’t have lasted its entire planned timeline.
Netflix Instant is modern man’s greatest/underutilized invention — You literally could be watching The Super Mario Bros. Super Show right now! And without getting your DVD copy out of its case! — but there are so many choices it’s difficult to decide which film or TV show to watch. Insert this series, which makes your life a little easier by giving some thumbs up recommendations to the things I love. Because sometimes it’s hard to tell whether watching a Jean-Claude Van Damme “movie” will be worth the experience (Double Team: yes. Death Warrant: no). This week’s recommendation is ABC’s Lost. (The first five seasons are available on Netflix Instant)
On Sunday, ABC aired an epic two and half hour series finale for the network’s most successfully ambitious show since Twin Peaks. No program took as many risks as Lost; not all of them worked, but very few could generate the emotional impact Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof created for its audience. Each week provided insightful philosophical commentary — albeit sometimes forced — and offered compelling television for 42 minutes — albeit with some go-nowhere cliffhangers — but, first and foremost, the characters represented Lost‘s best qualities. We’d not only see who the characters were on the island, but who they were before and what they’d become. Insignificant ones would be disposed — some in graceful ways, others in shocking reveals — in order to free up room for newer, more dynamic characters. The cast grew and grew with each passing season, and the characters’ collective story widened. Midway through the series, there’s a sense that we never want to see these characters leave this place. All they have are the people they meet after the crash; their only real family are these few survivors. By the end, those who watched Lost were immersed in a singular world and came out with entirely different worldviews.
I might not have been a dedicated Lost follower if it wasn’t for all the great analysis out there. The AV Club’s Noel Murray, Star Ledger’s (now Hitfix.com’s) Alan Sepinwall, the Chicago Tribune’s Mo Ryan and Entertainment Weekly’s Doc Jensen all provide insightful recaps of the show’s later seasons, and I highly recommend reading them after each episode. Watching Lost is a journey. As It begins a new life on DVD/Blu-Ray, I advise taking it slow; you should cherish your time with these characters.
Note: Please no discussing major plot points or the series finale in the comments. I’m trying to keep this post as spoiler-free as possible.
Netflix Instant is modern man’s greatest/underutilized invention — You literally could be watching Going Overboard right now! And without getting your DVD copy out of its case! — but there are so many choices it’s difficult to decide which film or TV show to watch. Insert this series, which makes your life a little easier by giving some thumbs up recommendations to the things I love. Because sometimes it’s hard to tell whether watching a Jean-Claude Van Damme “movie” will be worth the experience (Double Team: yes. Nowhere To Run: no). This week’s recommendation is the Starz series “Party Down.”
To keep with tradition of writing about shows that are on the cusp of cancellation, I recommend watching Party Down and soon. The show follows a Los Angeles catering team that couldn’t care less about serving its customers. They’d rather be pitching scripts and rehearsing movie lines. See, they’re all aspiring Hollywood-types. Kyle’s (Ryan Hansen) the heart-throb, Matthew McConaughey-striving leading man, Roman’s (Martin Starr) the heartless sci-fi writer, Casey’s (Lizzy Caplan) the dry-witted comedian, and Constance (Jane Lynch) is the veteran actor whose glory days spent shooting Dingleberries with Dom DeLouise have long passed. Everyone’s looking for another job and a way out of their hell-hole existence except for the show’s lead, Henry (Adam Scott). He had a promising acting career highlighted by a beer ad (“Are we having fun yet” is his terrifically quotable line from the gig), but has since given up acting to pursue a promising career as a bartender with the Party Down catering company. They’re all governed by Ron (Ken Marino) — new Ron actually, old Ron was a bit of a partier — the oafish boss with dreams of owning a Soup N’ Crackers franchise. (They’re known for their soups!) The team travels to different locales cateing a wide spectrum of events from a College Republican caucus to a porn awards after-party. Hijinks obviously ensue.
Created by John Enbom, Rob Thomas (both worked on Veronica Mars), Paul Rudd (who’s star rose to high to play the lead) and Dan Etheridge, Party Down always seems fresh with its excellent cast and weekly guest stars. Steven Weber’s performance in “Celebrate Ricky Sargulesh” was the best acted role in the first season and the best episode the show has aired by a long shot. However, the show’s heart lies in the “no hang-ups while there are so totally hang-ups” relationship between Henry and Casey, and their sparring ideologies on life. Henry has tried acting and given up while Casey still wants her shot. The reason this show might get cancelled, though, is because Adam Scott’s star is rising not burnt out like his character’s — undoubtably from his role here — and he’s accepted a regular spot on Parks & Recreation. His deal allows only three appearances three Party Down next season. The show can work with high character turnover (Jane Lynch left for Glee; Ryan Hansen shot a pilot for NBC) because a catering company filled with aspiring writers and actors should have high turnover. But losing the one guy who has “retired” and is satisfied with being a bartender? I’m not sure how that will turn out.
Because media executives hate me, ABC has canceled the most underrated show on television (and one I stumped for just last week). Better Off Ted is no more. This one’s for my homies Phil and Lem:
A visit to Memphis’ Stax Records Museum last month sparked an interest in a genre I’ve never paid enough attention: southern soul. To correct my listening flub, I’ve decided to spend some time with the expansive Stax-Volt Singles 1959-1968 box set and write about some note-worthy selections. This week: Rufus and Carla’s “‘Cause I Love You.”
Rufus Thomas was a key player in Memphis’ music scene when he released “‘Cause I Love You” with his daughter, Carla, in 1960. Sun Records’ recorded his “Hound Dog” rip-off, “Bear Cat,” which the label was sued for and almost bankrupted Sam Phillips. Thomas was a disc jockey at the country’s first all black run radio station, WDIA, but his popularity soared during his time on Stax Records with the help of his daughter.
When she was 10, Carla spent some time with the Teen Town Singers, a rotating cast of high school vocalists sponsored by WDIA–Rufus undoubtably had some influence in the station’s decisions. Rufus was Carla’s main influence and her stepping stone into the business. “‘Cause I Love You” is her first single on Stax, and the studio’s first hit. Carla would eventually earn the title “The Queen of Soul.”
Like Stax’s first record, the Veltone’s “Fool in Love,” longing for a lost love is this single’s main idea, but the father-daughter singing dynamic changes things up a bit. Carla hasn’t been the best daughter and Rufus ain’t been the best daddy, either, but together they both conclude “everything will be alright” if they’re back with each other. The opening piano sounds like an Jerry Lee Lewis rock ‘n’ roll tune, but the following horn section gives the song the soul that Stax would popularize.
When Chuck Klosterman spoke at Boswell Book’s last summer to promote the paperback release of Downtown Owl, he discussed compiling all the hypothetical questions he had thought of over the past couple years into some sort of party game that “you’d probably eventually see at Urban Outfitters.” Well, he tweeted today that you could pre-order the set via Amazon for about $10. Hypertheticals: 50 Questions for Insane Conversations will be available on June 15, but here’s a question he posed at his book signing that should hold you off until then:
You’re offered a job in New York City where once you wake up, you take a cab to the airport, then you fly to Los Angeles, take a cab to some agency in Hollywood, hand them a piece of paper, take a cab back to the airport, fly back to New York City, take a cab home and go to sleep. You do this every Monday through Friday. The job pays $200,000 a year. Do you take it?