Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy new year!

Happy new year everyone! Hope you have a wonderful time celebrating the arrival of Aught Nine. Goodbye and good riddance to 2008. Here's hoping this coming year is a better one -- at least there's a lot to look forward to in Nerddom! Now go get that bubbly chilled, get out your party favors, wave your nerd flag high and welcome 2009 with the fervor of a Comic-Con fangirl gone wild! :)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nothing says Christmas like swordfightin' and robots

Finally, FINALLY, saw "The Next Doctor," the latest "Doctor Who" Christmas special. Enjoyed it thoroughly although I'm afraid I heard so many good things about it before finally getting a chance to watch it, my expectations were unnaturally high and it didn't entirely live up to them. My main problem is that I'm just burned out on the Cybermen. At least last year's Christmas special gave us some new baddies to sink our teeth into rather than just giving us more Cybermen or Daleks or some combination of the two. Although I have to admit, the "Transformer"-style Cyberman in all its towering glory was pretty damn cool.

Beyond my Cyberman fatigue, though, I loved just about everything else. David Morrissey as The Other Doctor gave a great performance -- and I won't spoil the plot for those who haven't seen it yet -- but he did a wonderful job of creating a sad yet heroic character. Every scene between him and David Tennant was terrific. Loved the parallels between the two doctors and Ten's concern for his Morrissey's Doctor. And, gah, the line at the end where Ten admits that ultimately, all of his companions "broke my heart," so sad and so well done.

I'm not quite sure how I'm going to feel about not having one continuing companion for the Doctor in the four upcoming specials. I've always enjoyed those relationships and seeing the stories through the eyes of those other characters. If "The Next Doctor" is any indication of the quality of storytelling we'll be getting during Tennant's last year, then I'm confident we'll be seeing some great stuff. I've decided not to worry and just enjoy the rest of the ride. Especially if there's more swordfighting!

A little light reading...

My apologies for the dearth of posts lately. I've been caught up in some serious sloth with time off from work, gorging myself on cookies, reading Neil Gaiman books and spending quality time with some DVDs. But enough about me! I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday and are gearing up for an even better new year!

Now on with the show..or the know what I mean. If you can't wait for the new TV season to start, then why not spoil yourself silly then by reading these leaked scripts for a whole mess of upcoming pilots, courtesy of Spoiler TV? They got yer "Virtuosity." They got yer "Caprica." They got yer "Dollhouse." Sadly, they also have yer American-ized version of "Spaced." And they've got yer Nathan Fillion pilot, "Castle," which is actually the only one I've read yet. And I have to say, it looks like a really, really promising show. Although the premise owes a lot to "Bones" -- mystery writer helps solve crimes -- the characters are quite original and the dialogue is genuinely funny. I can't wait to see Nathan in this. This might be the show of his that actually lasts!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Odds and Ends

+ If you haven't seen it yet, check out this exclusive scene from "Dollhouse." I'm "meh" all over again. I really wish I could get more amped up about this show. Must remember my Whedon loves always start out slow...

+ This makes me sad: Eight Signs That Apple Customers Are No Longer Special

+ io9 has a helpful list of sci-fi marathons to help us while away the holiday hours. Looks like Friday's the day I finally figure out what all the "Highlander" fuss was ten years ago. It's never too late, though, right?

+ Three words: Extreme Poodle Grooming. Oh my God, I don't think I've laughed this hard in days. You have to check it out just for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Poodle. I'll give you a sampling with the truly messed-up camel dog:

It's just so, so wrong in so many ways...but still I laugh and laugh.

And thus, with visions of camel-shaped dogs still fresh in our minds, I bid you farewell for two days while I make with the Christmas festivities. Since it is technically a birthday celebration, I'm hoping there'll be cake! Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to everyone! I hope your holiday is peaceful, relaxing and filled with good friends and good cheer!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New trailer for "Lost" season 5 premiere

Ooh, new "Lost" season 5 premiere trailer. So much information to process, so many pretty pictures. Can't wait.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Best of Doctor Who

Because my latent OCD compels me to make lists and because I just finished all four seasons of Doctor Who, scarfing ‘em down like 50-some delicious butter-coated, crack-laced cupcakes, I’ve been obsessed with choosing my ten most favorite “Who” episodes. And here they are:

10. Father's Day

What It's About (In 20 Words or Less): Dear Rose, please don't mess with the space-time continuum to save your father. No, really. Cut it out.
Why I Love It: Making this list helped me realize that I'm sucker for the sad episodes. "Father's Day" is a stand-out from Season 1, showing just how devoted The Doctor has become to Rose when he takes her back in time to the day her father was killed. The Doctor warns her, emphatically, not to interfere because quite literally, all hell will break loose. Except, Rose being Rose, she saves her dad and all hell breaks loose. This episode really gives Rose some depth beyond the whole chip-eating, Mickey-dumping damsel in distress thing. And it establishes her character as someone who really has no regard for the rules of time travel -- something which comes into play many times later on. Eccleston is wonderful as we watch him alternately want to comfort Rose or club her like a baby seal.

9. Blink

What It's About: Menacing stone angels attack. The only way to stop them? Don't blink. Ever.
Why I Love It: For some reason, it's difficult for me to describe exactly what I love most about this episode. It's Doctor-lite, focusing instead on a young woman named Sally Sparrow who's trying to figure out why people in her life keep disappearing into the past and why someone named The Doctor is trying to protect her. The story is so tight and well-written. The whole episode just flies by, going from one jaw-dropping moment to another. The monsters are wonderfully creepy, sneaking up on people in one frozen, horrifying pose after another. All I can say is, "Blink" is one perfect package of an episode.

8. School Reunion

What It's About: Giant alien bats use brainy kids to take over the universe. Doctor's former companion returns. Many awkward moments ensue.
Why I Love It: The head bat is played by Anthony Stewart Head which alone is enough to catapult this one into the top ten. But more importantly, this episode gets to the heart of what it's like to be the Doctor's companion...and more importantly, what it's like when he casts you off. As the Doctor's former companion Sarah Jane Smith, Elizabeth Sladen is wonderful, portraying her character's equal measures of happiness at again seeing the man who gave her so much and her anger at the fact that he took it all away...and left her in Croydon. And to watch Rose slowly realize she's seeing her own future is all kinds of crushing. Also, we're reminded once again that the Doctor, as wonderful as he can be, is also kind of a selfish jerk.

7. The Stolen Earth/Journey's End

What It's About: Daleks again. Yawn. The good news? The Doctor and all his companions join forces to -- shockingly -- save the universe.
Why I Love It: People either love or hate this episode, but I'm a sucker for neatly tied-up endings even if they are completely devastating and wrong. Which these endings are. Rose gets her man -- sort of. (But really, what woman is going to complain about having a Ten doppelganger hanging around her house?) Donna, after becoming the most important person in the universe, is forced to go back to her old, sad life without even memories to comfort her. The Doctor is left with no one and nothing yet again. The whole end of this episode is just misery, but the absolute joy of seeing Jack, Rose, Martha, Sarah Jane, Harriet Jones (former prime minister), Mickey, Jackie, Donna and the Doctor all working together, quipping together, fighting wacky evil together more than makes up for those last harsh minutes.

6. Turn Left

What It's About: Donna Noble does "It's A Wonderful Life"...except it's not so wonderful without the Doctor.
Why I Love It: I'm saying it loud and proud -- Donna Noble is my favorite companion. She's smart, she's funny, she's compassionate, she's tough and she knows how to cut the Doctor down to size. And she's not at all romantically interested in her "space man," which is something of a welcome relief after Rose and Martha and her unrequited love. Donna just wants to be the Doctor's best buddy and see the universe. "Turn Left" is a great look at what Donna -- and the world -- would be like without the Doctor. The scenes between her and a time-travelling Rose as Rose tries to explain to her what life could be are wonderful. Catherine Tate does a great job riding the edge of desperation and despair as her already sad life gets a whole lot sadder.

5. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances

What It's About: A creepy little kid in a gas mask torments orphaned children during the London Blitz. And then there's Captain Jack.
Why I Love It: First of all, this episode is really quite unnerving. It shows just how much can go right with a low-budget monster that basically involves giving a child actor a gas mask. (So please kill off the Slitheen. Please.) Even better, these episodes introduce us to the inimitable ladies' man (and mans' man) Captain Jack, who quickly becomes indispensable to the Who/Torchwood mythos. Ultimately, though, these episodes are a terrific showcase for Christopher Eccleston's Doctor. His utter desperation at the end as he pleads with the universe to have things go right just this once is heartbreaking and cuts to the core of his Doctor's loneliness and his burning desire to move past the rage that's always bubbling so close to the surface. When he finally dances with Rose, breaking down that wall between them, his happiness is contagious.

4. Human Nature/Family of Blood

What It's About: Hunted by a murderous alien family, the Doctor hides by becoming human. Oh, and he falls in love. Bad human!
Why I Love It: If you're a David Tennant fan, you can't not love this episode. He's amazing as John Smith, the Doctor's human self who ultimately must "die" in order to bring the Doctor back and save the world. The best part is that the Doctor's human self is kind of a pompous jerk who is incredibly afraid -- as anyone would be -- of dying and leaving the life he's built for himself. This episode also shows just how cruel the Doctor can be, whether intentionally as he condemns the alien family to eternities of torment, or unintentionally when he asks the woman who loved John to come with him, not realizing how unbearable that would be for any human being. Tennant's performance throughout is absolutely beautiful. Also, on a completely shallow note, this episode is responsible for my favorite Tennant ad-libbing ever:

3. The Christmas Invasion

What It's About: Doctor Nine regenerates into Doctor Ten. There's a glitch just as aliens try to invade Earth on Christmas Eve.
Why I Love It: Oh "Christmas Invasion," I love you so. It's kinda ballsy to introduce your new Doctor by having him sleep through half the episode. That makes the first half drag a bit, but man, when Ten wakes and gets into the act, every second is pure gold. First off, this episode is hilarious with so many classic lines: "Not bad for a man in his jim-jams." There's the Doctor's sword fight with the alien in which he gets his hand lopped off (a hand that makes more cameo in this series than most of the secondary characters) and still using an orange. There's The Doctor's soliloquy about who he is -- "Am I...ginger?" -- and his random quoting of "The Lion King." For his first full episode, Tennant is great channeling elements of previous Doctors while still making this character his own. He's chatty, he's charming, he swashes a few buckles, and he's menacing, bringing down not just foes but friends, ending poor Harriet Jones' days as prime minister with just six little words. And the Doctor sharing Christmas dinner with Rose, Jackie and Micky is one of the sweetest scenes of the whole series. And did I mention there was sword fighting??

2. Army of Ghosts/Doomsday

What It's About: Daleks. Cybermen. Torchwood. Impending destruction of universe. Doctor and Rose get all three of their hearts ripped out.
Why I Love It: For one thing, Daleks and Cybermen trash talk each other, which is what I deeply hope happens when the real-life Alien/Robot war finally ensues. (And you know it will.) This is also the episode that takes us inside Torchwood for the first time. Oh, and Rose's sweet, awkward, sorta blowsy parents get back together, thanks to one undead dad from an alternate universe. And Mickey's actually cool. But most of all, I love this episode because it makes me cry like a small sad child. That moment when the gap between the universes close and all we see are Rose and the Doctor on either side of that wall -- oh man, it does me in every time. And that beach scene! If nothing else, Billie Piper is one hell of a crier. I will admit, though, to questioning the wisdom of her make-up choices every time I watch her meltdown.

1. The Runaway Bride

What It's About: Bride Donna Noble gets transported to the TARDIS and meets a Doctor still mourning Rose. Also, giant evil spiders!
Why I Love It: I feel like this is a weird choice, but I can't help it: "The Runaway Bride" is my favorite episode of Doctor Who. It's funny. It's exciting. It's sad. And honest to God, there's a TARDIS car chase! Catherine Tate and David Tennant are awesome together from the get-go. She's perfect in her irritation at missing her wedding by being transported, you know, to OUTER SPACE. Self-absorbed as she is, she's still concerned about the Doctor's obvious sadness. "What was your friend's name?" "Her name was Rose." Gah. And Tennant, as always, does a great job tempering his enthusiasm at helping Donna while simultaneously dealing with his character's loss. Perfection.

Now it's your turn. Tell me your favorites.

Flight of the Conchords premiere

Just swooping in to post this video of The Flight of the Conchords premiere, courtesy of Funny of Die. No time to fix the wonky width thing going on (or to watch it actually) but enjoy and let me know how it is! ETA: Fixed it!

Odds and Ends

+ What better way to start the morning than with Robert Downey Jr. eye candy? New photos have been released from Guy Ritchie's upcoming Sherlock Holmes flick and well, I'd say female viewership will be very high:

+ The "Twilight" sequel has a release date already: November 2009. Just in time to exsanguinate some holiday poultry! Vampires love that.

+ I've never been a big Stargate fan, but I might have to tune in for the latest incarnation -- Stargate: Universe. Why? Because it's going to star the wonderful Robert Carlyle. Plus, the plot sounds kind of intriguing:

(The show) follows a group of soldiers, scientists and civilians left to fend for themselves when forced through a stargate after their hidden base comes under attack.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

C'mon Felix, you can do better

The second of the 10 BSG "Face of the Enemy" webisodes aired yesterday. Has anyone else been watching them? I find myself wanting to not be drawn in by them simply because Felix Gaeta is by far my least favorite character on the show, but damn those good writers, they've snagged me anyway.

The story so far has Gaeta going away for a little R&R because he and everyone else in the fleet has had a nutty over that bummer called Earth. Gaeta gets caught in a rather unfortunate incident involving a Raptor. (Which is a space ship, not a dinosaur, for those who don't watch the show. But really, how cool would it be if the ship was shaped like a dinosaur? Oh yeah.) In the meantime, Gaeta's magical new boyfriend that we never, ever even caught a hint of except for that long-ish hug in "Revelations" is pining for him back aboard Galactica and trying to take a Raptor out to find him. Meanwhile, back aboard Gaeta's ship, Felix also seems to have forgotten that he's newly gay as he shares some very uncomfortable yet intimate looks with Boomer. (Or is it another Eight? Swear to God, I can't keep these cylons apart.)

My description is making these mini-episodes, which take place during the upcoming first episode of season 4.5, sound mawkish and crappy and they're not at all. The acting, as with any BSG episode, is very good and the writing is tight. There's a tension building nicely aboard the distressed Raptor (not shaped like a dinosaur) and there's just enough minor WTF moments to keep me enticed -- like what is Cylon Saul Tigh doing still in command in CIC? Did they all just have a group hug and decide to be sad together? If so, awesome. I love space emo. So overall, the quality of these little mini-movies is terrific and it has me counting not just the days, but the minutes until BSG's January 16 premiere.

My only problem is the whole Gaeta/Hoshi storyline. I mean, yes, okay, they hinted at some stuff between Felix and Baltar but who hasn't slept with Baltar? I think Lampkin's dog slept with the guy. It's just to be expected. But this Gaeta/Hoshi thing just came out of left field. Actually, it came out of the parking lot that's a ten-minute walk away from left field. I'm confuzzled.

And really, they choose Hoshi as the love interest? There wasn't some hot fighter pilot we haven't seen before? Felix chooses Middle Management Comb-Over Guy? Felix, I've seen your pecs and you have a lovely singing voice. You're totally shortselling yourself. Seriously, though, BSG has always been really good at telegraphing character traits well in advance of their full fruition. It's one of the things I've always loved about the writing and storytelling on this truly magnificent series. I sort of expected the same standard with these webisodes. I'm a-ok loving it if Felix is gay, but throw me some substantial clues over the last five years, please, so it doesn't just feel like a stunt. A stunt is not something I would wish on even my least favorite character.

If you haven't seen the webisodes (in which case, thank you for reading this far), here they are:

Episode One

Episode Two

Monday, December 15, 2008

Top Ten Top Ten Lists of 2008

Top ten lists are spawning like drunken irresponsible fleas on the world's most enormous dog these days, aren't they? That's why I've compiled this handy rundown of the 10 most interesting top 10 lists I've spotted in recent weeks. And they are:

+ From MSNBC: Top Archaeology Finds of 2008

+ From Top 10 Overused Plot Devices

+ From Time's Nerd World: Top Ten Hubble Photos

+ From Spout: Top Ten Board Games We'd Like To See As Movies

+ From Stephen King's Brain: Top Ten Movies of 2008
Gotta love a man who includes "The Ruins" in his annual rundown.

+ From Cracked: Ten Most Devastating Insults of All Time

+ From Mental Floss: Top 10 (Okay, 12) Things You Might Not Know About 'A Christmas Story' (even if you've seen it 90 times)

+ From Wired: Top Ten Amazing Chemistry Videos

+ From TIME: Top 10 of Everything of 2008
Which totally seems like overkill but I include them because they are venerable.

Okay, that was only nine, but I've left a spot open so you can let me know if any good lists you've spotted -- or written -- recently. Sharing is always appreciated.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Odds and Ends

+ So what do you think of these fancy Golden Globe nominations? There didn't seem to be any big surprises which is not at all shocking. It's made me very curious about the "Benjamin Button" movie although I continue to be creeped out by the enormity of Brad Pitt's head on that little, little body in the commercial. Kinda shaped like his own little Golden Globe award...perhaps there's a connection?

+ "The Day the Earth Stood Still" remake opens today. The Los Angeles Times liked it even if they did make me vomit just a bit when describing Keanu Reeves as "the greatest stone face since Buster Keaton." Those two names just shouldn't be in the same sentence together.

+ Maureen Ryan writes about "Fable," which is being turned into a series pilot for ABC next season. I've never read any of the "Fable" tales but the whole scenario sounds intriguing.

Despite those fantastical elements -- “Fables” features magic, witches, an army of wooden soldiers and the like -- the saga works, thanks to Willingham’s keen eye for detail, the momentum he builds up over time, the series’ terrific sense of humor, and the way that he grounds every story with realistic emotional stakes for the characters. The goal is not just to defeat the evil Empire, the goal is to find and keep love. There’s one wedding in “Fables” that brought a tear to my eye.

Given how skittish the networks are about ambitious storytelling -- heck, NBC just whacked a third of its primetime schedule in order to clear room for Jay Leno’s new talk show -- should ABC even attempt to bring “Fables” to life? Should it make the attempt despite the fact that NBC attempted a "Fables" adaptation a few years ago and failed?

+ And because it's Friday, I offer you this classic piece of American kitsch -- a monkey wearing a little hat and riding a dog:

Monday, December 08, 2008

Odds and Ends

It's a short Odds and Ends today owing to a vertigo-inducing sinus headache. The couch beckons...

+ Catch the first of the "Battlestar" webisodes three days early, this Friday at noon on the Sci-Fi Channel website. You also can check out the totally amusing 13-minute recap of the entire series here. You may have seen the first eight minutes a while back but it features five minutes of new stuff.

+ Here's a preview of the "30 Rock" Christmas episode. Hearing Alec Baldwin utter the words, " on monkey wrestling..." is gift enough for me:

Sing it loud, sing it proud!

Hey Flight of the Conchords fans, here's a cool new contest to tide people over until the HBO series' second season starts on January 18. As the press release says, "In celebration of this momentous event, Mel -- Bret and Jermaine's (married, obsessive, terrifying) number one superfan -- would like to extend an invitation to all her fellow Conchords fans, an opportunity to video yourself lip-synching to "Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros." The winners will be shown on HBO. Yes, you will be on the same channel as Tony Soprano and all the pasta he ate! Here's the Mel video itself:

So, to recap, learn each and every word of "Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros" by downloading the official MP3 from Then videotape yourself lip-synching the song. Then upload your video to the aforementioned site. Easy as pie! And if you do a video, be sure to tell us here at The Park Bench so we can check it out.

Please be quiet please...

"Mute is the new cute, Kiefer."

There are very few things in this world that truly aggravate me. Kiefer Sutherland would no doubt be pleased to know that he is one of them. Or rather, his voice is one of them. Now, just to clarify, Mr. Sutherland has a very pleasant speaking voice with a fine timbre to it and his pronunciation is just swell, too. There are no speech impediments and if "24" has proven anything, it's that the man knows how to pronounce "nuclear." So, really, what's my problem here?

My issue is this: when he is "acting," Kiefer Sutherland does one of two things with his voice: he either shouts -- which I call his outdoor voice -- or whispers in a very shouty way -- also known as his indoor voice. And a good 75 percent of the time, he uses those two options in completely the wrong setting.

Come January 11, I will be faced with a tough decision: do I watch "24" with my finger poised attentively over the volume button or do I just forego the aggravation and let Kiefer's voice carry on without me this year?

Can I really miss out, though, on all the fun the shouty voice offers me? Like wondering how the terrorists can't hear him 10 miles away let alone when he's hiding in a sewer pipe under their feet shouting hushed, top-secret instructions back to CTU? How dogs aren't instantly rendered mute by his decibels? How his lady friends' ears don't bleed when he "whispers" sweet nothings? How Chloe could stand getting all those text messages in ALL CAPS? How that cougar that tried to eat Kim wasn't frightened away simply by the sound of her genes?

Truthfully, as much as he aggravates me, I don't know if I can give up completely on Mr. Shouty Inappropriately Loud McShouty-Pants. The only solution might be to include cotton balls in the man-purse I carry in Jack's honor every Sunday night. Also drinking. And mocking. Softly. Quietly. With tonal variation.

How do you feel about the Kief?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Odds and Ends

+ Nathan Fillion's new comedy-drama series "Castle" will make its debut on Monday, March 9 at 10 o'clock on ABC. This one's gotta last more than 13 episodes, right?

+ Also this March comes the return of "Reaper," on St. Patrick's Day. It will be introduced by leprechauns. Not really. Maybe a drunk Boston Celtics fan but that's still unconfirmed.

+ How awesome is this? A do-it-yourself R2-D2 dreidel -- or "droidel," as they call it. There's instructions and everything. I'm absolutely going to build one of these.

+ Remember that cute German polar bear Knut that everyone (including me) was ga-ga over last year? He's still cute but now he's brown and apparently he's the Corey Haim of the German zoo world, causing trouble and wreaking havoc.

The Germans are kicking him out but it looks like other zoos are lining up to adopt him, so all is well. I think he looks cute as a brown bear....

+ ETA: Last night on CBC's "The Hour," Dave Foley announced that Kids in the Hall have signed a deal with the Canadian network to produce an eight-part special called "Death Comes to Town." Can't wait!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A golden age of hot British actors?

Ladies, it's time to slap on the water wings and adjust the snorkel because we're diving into the shallow end of the pool today. Gentlemen, you may wish to avert your eyes or pick up your Maxim because there's going to be talk of sexy men shortly...and it's not going to be pretty.

Data has been piling up lately. You've seen it on your televisions and in your movie theaters and tucked away in the pages of your People magazines and US Weeklies. The question is out there, just waiting to be answered. And I believe we're the ones best qualified to tackle this difficult subject:

Are British male actors getting hotter or is my eyesight just getting better?

Let's look at the evidence chronologically. In the 1930s and 1940s, we had Cary Grant, the standard bearer of British male pulchritude:

In the 1960s, we had Sean Connery and Michael Caine -- and let's face it, the standards got a little bit lower:

In the 1980s, we started doing a bit better with Julian Sands:

Things started rolling nicely in the 1990s with the likes of Hugh Grant and Liam Neeson:

And then, holy hell, the new millennium dawns, the dam of British hotness breaks and suddenly they're everywhere! There's Daniel Craig...

and Orlando Bloom...

and Gerard Butler...

and Henry Ian Cusick...

and David Tennent...

And dozens more. Besides the actors, even that old "unattractive inbred royalty" thing has been busted:

In fact, hot British men have become so ubiquitous, we even have them filling in as hot American men. To wit, there's him:

...and him

...and him

Ladies, this is but a small sampling -- and I'm not even bringing Australians into the equation!* I'm no kind of scientist, but I'd say the facts -- and the photographic evidence -- speak for themselves.

What do you think? Are we in the Golden Age of Hot British Actors? And if so, what did we do to deserve this and can we do it again, please?

* ETA: Except I did, just there, with Simon Baker who I totally didn't realize was Australian. Oops. He's too cute to dock from the list though....

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Odds and Ends

Hello everyone! For the Americans, hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! For everyone else, hope you had a lovely Wednesday through Tuesday. Personally, I'm just now recovering from having eaten enough pumpkin pie to choke a very chunky horse -- and it was spectacular! And now on to the news at hand:

+ Not to suggest that "House" is formulaic or anything*, but Cracked had a great item on "How to Write Your Own 'House' Episode" and yes, it does include the always-popular furrowed-brow moment.

+ Speaking of formulas that are good in spite of themselves, there's a new preview of "24" out which includes a glimpse of an old friend and also moments of Jack Bauer neither whispering nor shouting but instead making a grammatical error. It's pretty much everything you'd expect from "24." The new season debuts on Jan. 12...and I really, really want to make a cougar joke right now but will show maturity and restrain myself. Or maybe not: Cougar!

+ The DVD of "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" comes out today and features more than three hours of extras including deleted scenes, gag reel, full-length documentary and audio commentary by Frank Spotnitz and Chris Carter, which better include a personal apology for disappointing the hell out of me with this movie. A movie which I will nonetheless buy because X-Files owns me and I am a sad, sad person.

+ "Battlestar Galactica" webisodes debut on Dec. 12 and I'm giddy as a school girl! Two episodes will be posted per week for five weeks, leading up to BSG's Jan. 16 season premiere. Even more awesome, the webisodes were written by Jane Espenson and Seamus Kevin Fahey, staffers who penned some of last year's best episodes. And in other way awesome BSG news, "Caprica" has finally been greenlit as a series for Sci-Fi. Now I'm beyond giddy and verging on delirious. I need pie to celebrate!

+ Have I mentioned I love the internets? Today on Twitter I was following the back and forth between Wil Wheaton and Greg Grunberg of "Heroes" as they exchanged compliments and eventually concocted the idea of Wheaton appearing in an upcoming episode of the NBC series. And now io9 has to go and be dicks about the whole thing and semi-mock Wheaton with a poll on what sort of superpower he should have when he joins the superhero league. I don't see how you can run a site like io9 and mock Wil Wheaton. It seems positively unpatriotic. (However, if he were to have a superpower, I would vote for gills. How cool would that be?)

+ Park Bench reader Crone51 sent in this great musical tribute to smart women by singer-songwriter Richard Thompson. "I want a woman from Mensa with a furrowed brow..." It's wonderful. Enjoy:

+ I got an e-mail recently announcing the debut of a new website called Book View Cafe ( that offers new and unpublished literature by authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin, Vonda McIntyre and Laura Ann Gilman, all for free. Writers also will be offering extended versions of their work and other goodies for a small fee. Looks like an interesting experiment in publishing....

* But it is.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It was 20 years ago today...(well, actually this past Monday)

This week marks the 20th anniversary of one of my favorite creations of all time. Nope, not butter, although that’s a very good guess. I’m talking about “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” a show about a guy trapped on a space ship watching awful movies with his robot friends. And I’m saying it loud and proud right here and now: it was pretty much the funniest damn show ever made and, to date, the only show to ever make me laugh so hard I sustained an actual physical injury. (And I never played piano again.)

Sure, there’ve been other funny TV shows, even some funny shows without puppets. But they were all 22 to 42 minutes long. Big deal. The writers of MST3K were funny for an hour-and-a-half every episode, mocking everything and everyone from Jackie Collins to “Harold and Maude” to Russian literature and Dada-ism. In a world filled with comedic sprinters, these writers were marathoners. (See, right there? They would have thrown in a clever “Is it safe?” joke. I have no such skill.)

“Mystery Science Theater” was a primer on exceptional writing. It proved in a profound manner that you don’t ever have to pander or dumb a joke down to make people laugh. Smart humor is good humor and even if half the room is scratching their heads at a Frida Kahlo joke, the other half of the room is thinking it’s the greatest thing ever because, seriously, it’s a Frida Kahlo joke! Who the hell makes Frida Kahlo jokes? Everyone who’s ever gotten an MST joke that rendered the rest of the room silent knows what a great feeling it is, like you just earned your PhD in cultural awesomeness.

Plus the show was just plain hilarious. I firmly contend that unless dolphins start performing cabaret or cats learn to give the finger, I will never see anything more miraculous than “A Patrick Swayze Christmas.” And lines like, “If you’re like me – and I know I am” and “How much Keefe is in this movie? Miles O’Keefe” will never not be funny. TV Frank’s plaintive love song to “Nummy Muffin Cookle Butter,” Torgo the Pizza Delivery Man, the Joey the Lemur Song – I love them all with irrational glee.

MST also worked because it had heart. It had that Midwestern humor that hits hard but never hurts. For as many films as they skewered, you always felt they still had affection for them – and when you think about some of the movies they had to sit through, that’s pretty damn impressive. (Joe Don Baker in “Mitchell” alone would have driven me to criminal acts.)

The characters gave the show heart, too. I never thought I’d anthropomorphize puppets made of gumball machines and bowling pins, but Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot had, well, depth, as did villains, Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank, whose deeply disturbing yet weirdly endearing relationship cracked me up to no end. And then there was Joel and Mike (I really want to say “Maude” here, too, but I’ll refrain). Whether you were a Hodgson fan or a Nelson fan or, like me, a fan of both, there’s no denying the charm and good-natured lovability each brought to their role.

So please join me today in celebrating the greatness that was “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” It was the best cow town puppet show ever.

And don't forget to check out the MST crew's latest projects: Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax. And if you want to indulge your nostalgia like I plan to, pick up a copy of the 20th anniversary MST box set. And if you want to read a far better tribute to MST than mine, check out Wil Wheaton's paean here.

Odds and Ends

+ Tricia Helfer is going to be in an upcoming episode of "Chuck." And among the fanboys, there was much rejoicing!

+ Helfer's former co-star Michael Trucco is slated to appear in a December episode of "The Big Bang Theory."

+ James Marsters, aka "Spike," is going to be heading up the cast of "Alien Western," a movie which is pretty much a, uh, alien western. There's aliens and cowboys and horses and spaceships and, pretty please, James Marsters in chaps and a big shady hat.

+ Albert Einstein's made-up math equation, e=mc2, has finally been proven. Yes, I kinda thought it had already been proven, too, what with the building of so much scary stuff based on that math, but no, apparently, the scientists have just been faking it this whole time.

+ And in celebration of the 45th anniversary of "Doctor Who," io9 compiled this list of the 45 coolest moments in "Doctor Who" history.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hello, "Battlestar" teaser!

Galactica Sitrep has posted a "low-fi" version of the long-awaited "Battlestar Galactica" season 4.5 video from Canada's Space channel. Judging from the preview, this season's going to live up to every inch of my unreasonable expectations. C'mon, January 16!! ETA: Here's the high-res version...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Letting the "Twilight" train pass me by

"How can I bend my knees in jeans this tight? I am magical."

Sometimes I cultivate very large blind spots in my pop culture vision just to be difficult. My most recent blind spot is called "Twilight" and after months of willfully neglecting the phenomenon, I find myself wondering, "What's it all about, Vampy?*"

I know the basic premise of the books, and it sounds pretty good and angsty. As for the author, I heartily applaud anyone who can make their mark writing about adolescent vampires (yes, you Whedon). And I will admit that all the hullabaloo over the movie release today has piqued my interest -- so much so that I visited "Twilight" Central on the Entertainment Weekly website. (I scored a 40 on the interactive quiz. So apparently my understanding of "Twilight" is pretty much equivalent to my understanding of every calculus quiz I ever took.) Usually if the cultural clamor is loud enough, I'll acquiesce and investigate but I just can't bring myself to pick up one of Stephenie Meyer's books.

And mostly, I feel fine about that. Whereas the Harry Potter series seemed to easily straddle the adult and youth literary worlds much as Shel Silverstein does or C.S. Lewis or Lewis Carroll, the "Twilight" books seem nestled exclusively in the teen landscape. I'm sure that has to do with marketing or just my own skewed perceptions, but honestly, I feel like I'd be intruding if I picked up one of these novels. (That reluctance isn't there with the film so much. The only thing holding me back from seeing the movie is the fact that I can't stand paying $10 to sit in a theatre surrounded by 12-year-old girls texting "OMG" through the whole thing. Seriously, there should be a cellular dampening field installed in each and every cineplex.)

Just to be clear, I'm not saying adults shouldn't read and enjoy these novels. They're obviously intended to cross-over. I just can't get into it -- and the oversaturation in the media at the moment makes me even more obstinate.

So I'm just going to let this phenom go along without me, and tip my jaunty hat to the next generation of book-loving nerds who love vampires. They've got their Edwards. I had my Spikes. Our repressed, xenophobic Victorian grandmothers had their Draculas. To each generation, their own bloodsucking fascinations, as I always say. It's the circle of undead life...with exsanguination!

* That was a shout-out for all one of the "Alfie" fans out there. Woo, represent!!

Odds and Ends

+ Looks like "Pushing Daisies" is a goner. When it worked, this was one of the most wonderfully original and sweet shows ever to air, but recently, it just seemed to be trying too hard. Still, though, I'm sorry to see it go.

+ Good news! "Battlestar Galactica" webisodes are set to start airing in the middle of December. Something to hold onto until the January 16 premiere finally, finally rolls around. ETA: I just found out Sci-Fi is going to air the preview for season 4.5 during their day-long Bond marathon on Thanksgiving. Thanks, Sci-Fi, that's hugely convenient for everyone, I'm sure.

+ $10 million seems like a fair price to pay to regenerate a mastodon, don't you think? I can't wait until they start selling these things at the Petco. I'm totally going to dress mine up as a Bantha.

+ Speaking of bones, the remains of Nicolaus "Sunshine" Copernicus were found orbiting the Earth! Hahaha, just kidding. They were in a box.

+ People Magazine announced their Sexiest Man Alive this week, and the winner is Hugh Jackman. And there's pictures of at least 15 of the runners-up. Pretty, pretty!

+ And, um, this is the blogging equivalent of asking someone if they can come out and play but is anyone interested in chit-chatting with me about "Doctor Who"? I set up a page here for anyone who has some time and might be willing to indulge me in conversation on my new mania. (This is what happens when BSG is off the air for 9 months.) Thank you!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The future has arrived...

There's a scene in The West Wing where Leo McGarry laments the disappointing nature of "the future," and asks why none of the cool stuff he was promised as a child ever came to fruition. In short, he asks, "Where's my jet pack?"

Well, my own personal jet pack arrived today and it's called The New Xbox Experience. Now, keep in mind, I'm a very easy futurist to please so basically all it took for me to squeal with joy was the realization that I can use my Netflix and XBox accounts TOGETHER. Have a hankering to watch Season One "Doctor Who?" No need to wait for the mail, run down to the local Blockbuster or even move my ass off the couch one single inch -- nope, now I can just queue it up and press play and voila, there it is! Like magic, people, like goddamn MAGIC!

Now I know I can easily download stuff from the internets and watch it on my computer screen but we all know deep down that's not at all as cool as watching it on the actual TV where the little people live to entertain me.

As for the NXE's other features -- well, apparently, there's games and shit on there too and you can make little avatars (*cough*notatalllikemiis*cough*) but mostly -- NETFLIX TELEPORTED RIGHT INTO MY FREAKIN' TV!!!! OMFG!!!

If you'll excuse me, I have Season Two of "Coach" to watch followed by seven or eight hours of "Gimme a Break." I am going to become a shut-in and it's going to be AWESOME!

P.S. I promise not to capitalize this much ever again. Mostly because I'll be too busy watching TV.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tweet away, Mr. Fry, tweet away

To say I've fallen in love with Stephen Fry's tweets sounds slightly more dirty than I actually intend yet there it is: I'm smitten and could happily fill a day reading his Twitter posts, especially the ones about lemurs. His tweets are like wonderful little notes left all over your house by your most clever know, the one who likes to break into your house and leave wonderful little notes. For example:

Discovery! iPhone in shirt pocket on warm day + movement allows nipples to engender and post meaningless tweets.

If William Carlos Williams were alive today and had a Twitter account, he would surely be envious. He'd probably also be jealous about the lemurs. Who wouldn't, frankly?

And if you want even more Fry, he's got a newly updated website that's definitely worth a visit.

Nerd Man of the Month: Neil Gaiman

Saucy AND literate!

Okay, ladies, I'm going to come right out and admit that I've only just begun my Neil Gaiman education. So, much as I was with David Tennant's Nerd Man recognition, I'm pretty much a neophyte singing the praises of our authorial honoree this month rather than a seasoned acolyte shouting my encyclopedic fan knowledge from the rooftops. So please bear with me as I shakily tip The Park Bench's nerdy hat in Mr. Gaiman's honor. Please bear in mind, too, that I'll be counting on you to fill in all the things I've missed.

Right now, I'm nose deep in "Fragile Things," a wonderful collection of Gaiman stories that merges Murakami-esque surrealism with a dash of Tim Burton, a wee bit of Stephen King, a smidge of Charles Addams and an ethereal, delicate sensibility purely and totally Gaiman's own. And yes, with each turn of the page, my literary crush is growing. This guy deserves recognition -- well beyond a Park Bench honor -- simply because he's a brilliant writer with a mind that brings wonderfully unimagined worlds to life.

Gaiman's collection of work extends well beyond my toe-in-the-water reference to "Fragile Things." He's probably best known as the author of "The Sandman" comic books, a number of children's books including the recent "The Graveyard Book" and "Coraline" which has been turned into a stop-motion film set to debut in January. He's also set to pen the end of Batman for DC Comics in 2009. But perhaps most impressive of all, his first book was a biography of Duran Duran. The man has documented the life of Simon LeBon! Nice.

Happily, Gaiman's nerdy goodness extends even beyond his way with curious plot lines and disturbing imagery; he's also got a fabulous journal that is instantly addictive from paragraph one. It's a compelling, funny and earnest account of a writer's life, like a less-mannered John Hodgman blog but with bigger words and fewer references to hobos.

Neil Gaiman is the best kind of nerd. He's smart, funny, literate, has a passion for his work and knack for blazing new paths. And he wrote an episode of "Babylon Five." In short, chicks like intelligent men and this guy uses the OED and the magnifying glass that comes with it, so let's all do the math here: Gaiman is the geeky ideal and that's why we're pleased to name him our November Nerd Man of the Month.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some reading to do.

ETA: Thank you to Ruth for the suggestion!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Simon Pegg: actor, author, Renaissance man

Awesome. Simon Pegg wrote a "Star Wars" fan fic. And I think I now love him just a little bit more. An excerpt, as Yoda, Obi Wan and Mon Mothma try to decide what to do with Anakin Skywalker's children after Episode 3:

He should be Luke Skywalker. Come on, it sounds cooler.

Mon Mothma
What is it with you and names?

I think it's important. Why do you think I changed my name to Obi Wan? Nobody's going to be frightened of a Jedi called Benjamin.

Fear leads to agression...

Yeah yeah. If I had a credit for every time you wheeled that one out.

Up shut!


Monday, November 17, 2008

Odds and Ends

  • Ridley Scott is set to direct a movie based on...Monopoly. Yes, the game with the little dog and the hat and the exorbitant rental prices. Scott says it's going to be "Blade Runner"-esque, which I hope means we get to see Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer fighting over who gets to be the car.
  • Sneak peak at the new Doctor Who Christmas special:
  • And the funniest thing I saw all weekend -- Robot Chicken's Bob Goldstein, Jedi lawyer:

* Mostly because I haven't had a chance to watch the new Robot Chicken "Star Wars" special yet.

Friday, November 14, 2008

For those about to trock, we salute you!

First there was Filk. And then Wizard Rock. And now there's Trock or Timelord Rock, music dedicated to all things "Doctor Who." As the Doctor himself might say: "What??!" I had no idea such a thing existed, which is not exactly shocking, but color me giddy.

So what exactly does Trock sound like? Here's the band IO9 says is basically the Cadillac of the genre. They're called Chameleon Circuit, and they've done a nifty song about the popular series three episode, "Blink," called, shockingly, "Blink." Here it is. It's quite catchy!

You can watch a video of the band themselves performing the song at the IO9 link above. Now I'm curious as to what other nerd-tastic genres exist. I swear, if there's a Rupert Giles tribute band out there, send me the CD now!

Our next president is a big nerd!

I had no idea that President-Elect Obama was a collector of Spider-Man comic books! Between that and the Peruvian puppy and the fact that, well, he reads books and such, the White House could be waving its nerd flag high for the next four to eight years.

Even better is the fact that as of last night Stephen Colbert is trying to use Obama's Spidey love to get him on the show. Says Comic Book Resources:
CBR News has confirmed that on Thursday’s episode of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” host Stephen Colbert will challenge Barack Obama to appear on a show, using the U.S. President Elect’s reported fanboy roots as bait.

In the final segment of the show, Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief will appear alongside Colbert and present the faux-conservative commentator with a copy of “The Amazing Spider-Man” #573 featuring a variant cover – illustrated by Quesada and Richard Isanove – depicting Colbert in the iconic pose seen on the cover of 1962’s “Amazing Fantasy” #15, Spider-Man’s first appearance.

Quesada and Colbert will both autograph the special issue, which Colbert will then offer to President Elect and Spider-Man comic book collector Barack Obama should he accept the invitation to appear on “The Colbert Report.”

Angel, Buffy or Firefly...which one's the best?

This guy on IO9 argues that "Dollhouse" is going to be Joss Whedon's greatest work ever. His case is pretty compelling -- except for the bit where he says that most of Whedon's premises are weak, a statement with which I disagree vehemently. Everything he says about "Dollhouse," though, actually makes me look forward to it even more.

It also made me wonder, though, what IS Whedon's best work? "Aliens 3," right? Hahahaha, just kidding. Okay, what's his best TV series? That, for me, is a really difficult call. There's so much to be said for all of three shows.

"Angel" is of course the forgotten cast-off series but boy oh boy was that a great show. First, Angel was a great character -- the vampire equivalent of Jane Eyre's Mr. Rochester. He was dark and brooding and guilt-ridden but he was also vain and inadvertantly hilarious. The episode where he could finally walk in sunlight and, more importantly, see himself in a mirror is brilliant, with this morbid dude frolicking in daylight and asking his friends if he always wears that much gel in his hair. And yet, the show could wring the emotions out of you too, whether it was Angel losing Buffy all over again or losing Cordelia or giving his son away to protect him. But best of all, he got turned into a puppet! "A wee little puppet man!" as Spike said. That in and of itself makes this resilient, creatively flexible show a masterpiece.

Which means it would be at the top of my list if it weren't for "Firefly." Thirteen episodes of pure perfection, a show that gave the world Nathan Fillion and a man named Jayne -- two things for which I will be forever grateful. "Firefly" always had the ideal mix of action, adventure, humor, hijinks, romance, familial love, marital love...and, as Joss always said, whores! (That was my favorite part of every pre-press interview Joss ever did for "Firefly." Every one of his descriptions ended with "and it has whores!" Wouldn't everything be funnier if it ended with "whores?" I say yes.) It's such a shame that Fox pulled the plug on "Firefly" so quickly because each episode was better than the last. This one would be at the top of my list, too, if it weren't for...

"Buffy," which, with all respect to the IO9 dude, is always going to be Whedon's greatest work. And here's why: it was his first show and it was genius from day one. Turning that horror movie cliche of the dumb blonde victim on its head...and then on its ass...and then back on its head again, "Buffy" paved the way for strong female characters who could also be funny and flawed. "Buffy" was an original. And holy cow, was it ever funny. Every episode was packed to the brim with absurd and unforgettable lines that I will continue to quote decades after everyone ceases listening to me. And just as "Angel" and "Firefly" did, "Buffy" could get manic clowns with blood made of Xanax to cry -- when Angel turned on her, when Giles betrayed her and oh my God, when Joyce died. That episode is one of the most heart-rending and crushingly disturbing portrayals of death ever shown on television and why Whedon wasn't given an eternal Emmy award right then and there will always be a mystery to me.

So no matter how great "Dollhouse" turns out to be -- and I have deep nerd faith that it will be awesome (despite my "meh" feelings about the previews) -- it will never be as good as "Buffy." And that's not a criticism. It's just that "Buffy" was the groundbreaker. She made everything else possible and for that one simple reason, it's a show that will never be topped.

Still though, nothing beats "Aliens 3."

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Odds and ends

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Puppies, I say, puppies!

OH MY GOD!! Have you heard about the Puppy Cam? A half-dozen Shiba Inu puppies on display in all their adorable glory. If you go to Gawker, you can see an awesomely cute preview. Please God, don't let it end up being a snuff video....

Friday, November 07, 2008

Slow down there, Mr. Zombie, you're going to hurt yourself

Bless his genre-loving heart, Simon Pegg is a bit sad these days about the new, swift-footed model of zombies that are all the rage. (No "28 Days Later" pun intended.) He wrote a wonderful lament on the subject for the UK's Guardian newspaper. He writes:

I know it is absurd to debate the rules of a reality that does not exist, but this genuinely irks me. You cannot kill a vampire with an MDF stake; werewolves can't fly; zombies do not run. It's a misconception, a bastardisation that diminishes a classic movie monster. The best phantasmagoria uses reality to render the inconceivable conceivable. The speedy zombie seems implausible to me, even within the fantastic realm it inhabits. A biological agent, I'll buy. Some sort of super-virus? Sure, why not. But death? Death is a disability, not a superpower. It's hard to run with a cold, let alone the most debilitating malady of them all.

I whole heartedly agree with Pegg on this matter. I don't like it when my mythical monsters evolve. It takes me out of the moment when I'm watching a film. Even something as ridiculous as the vampire movie the Cinematic Titanic crew riffed on at the live show a few weeks ago was getting to me when the vampire stood looking at himself in the mirror -- hello, vampires don't have reflections!

They may just seem like child's play, but the classic monsters -- wolfmen, vampires, zombies -- all represent metaphorical fears. Changing their dynamics moves them away from that metaphorical role they're meant to fill.

Plus, monsters exist in their own fictional world. Messing with that world and its attributes just throws everything off kilter, like if the U.S.S. Enterprise was suddenly fueled not by dilithium crystals but with kittens or if the Force turned out to be just another tai chi move. Fiction is a tricky, gossamer-like entity in the best of times. Disturbing that delicate balance just makes the job of both the creator and the audience even harder.

So, zombies, let's just slow down a little, okay? Let's go back to the good old days of shambling, one unsteady shoeless foot sliding in front of another. It's easy and it's fun!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

New "Dollhouse" trailer

A new trailer for Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse" has arrived:

I don't doesn't really grab me. Then again, I'm not a big Eliza Dushku fan. And I have to remind myself that "Firefly" didn't look that great to me before I saw an actual full episode either, so I'm still very optimistic. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Casting my ballot for fun!

I love to vote. The same dorky side of me that loves office supplies and used to look forward to the first day of school absolutely loves exercising her civic duty. I love everything about the experience, from filling out that little card at the beginning of the line to filling in all the bubbles on the ballot (just like an SAT test) to going over to the machine and feeding my ballot in, saying that one last prayer to the election gods ensuring that my vote will actually count. (I’m a worrier.)

I’m not much of a flag waver. I don’t have bumper stickers on my car or own a flag pin of any sort. But election day gets my patriotic juices flowing a lot more than even the Fourth of July. I think it’s because voting reminds me that our government is participatory, that we all get a chance to have our voices heard. And that’s a pretty extraordinary thing.

I also like the poll workers. I’ve done that job a few times and served as an election monitor, too, and it’s really a pretty grueling and thankless job. It’s stressful because you don’t want to make a mistake and see your polling station on the evening news that night. It’s also extremely tiring. It was hard for me when I was college age. I have no idea how these folks in their 70s and 80s hang in there for 10 to 12 hour days, getting up before sunrise and working tirelessly to help us all cast our votes. They certainly deserve our thanks – even the cranky ones.

I also like to vote because it’s about community. Today, driving back to work from my polling place, I saw couples walking hand in hand toward, moms pushing baby carriages, a guy with his dog – everyone headed out to vote. These days, we mostly just drive past each other or wave a quick hello to the neighbor as we walk into the house, but election day is the one day when everyone gathers in one place for a common purpose. It’s just nice to know that everybody’s still out there and that we’re all citizens of the same country. Even if I vehemently disagree with someone’s politics and may cast the occasional look of disdain at their choice of lawn sign, that all seems to disappear for me on election day. It’s like shaking hands at the end of the Stanely Cup finals – the players may have just beaten the hell out of each other, but they’re still going to acknowledge a game well played.

Plus, free stickers! Who doesn't love the idea that millions of grown adults get rewarded with free stickers? It's like being in kindergarten only instead of voting on what to name the new class gerbil, we're picking a guy to be the leader of the free world. Absurdly awesome.

Happy voting, everyone!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Monday Odds and Ends

+ Hey all you Bradley Whitford fans out there. The Dimpled One is (hopefully) returning to weekly television next year. UPI reports that:

Bradley Whitford, known for his roles on "The West Wing" and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," has signed on to star and produce a comedy pilot for NBC.

The Hollywood Reporter said Whitford's latest project is a single-camera pilot for a buddy comedy series called "Off Duty."

The show casts Whitford as a once-great police detective whose career is faltering and Romany Malco as the rising star who gets stuck with him as a partner, the entertainment industry trade newspaper said.

I may not have forgiven Sorkin for "Studio 60" but I'm always ready to welcome the Whitford love back onto my TV screen.

+ Cracked's Seven Most Impressive (and Depressing) Geek Collections. I don't know, I wouldn't mind having that "Star Wars" collection. Think of the Busby Berkley numbers you could stage with these babies:

+ Okay, this fries my Latinate bacon: in England, the Bournemouth Council has banned the use of certain Latin words and phrases in all official documents and communications because they are elitist and disciminatory. Instead, they've asked that English equivalents be used. This blogger has written up a fine response to the insanity of this decree. I hope the head of the council is forced to tattoo the words "Cogito ergo dumbass" on his backside.

+ Did you see TIME magazine's 50 Best Inventions of the Year? You know it's a good list when Dr. Horrible clocks in at #15. I'm also partial to the bionic hand, The Dynamic Tower, the Seed Vault and Montreal's Public Bike System. Very cool list.

+ I don't get choked up too often, especially with things on "60 Minutes" but last night I happened to catch this segment on scientists who are able to connect paralyzed people's brains directly to computers allowing them to do things like move computer cursers and even actual motorized wheelchairs with their brains. This one woman is completely paralyzed by a stroke but her mind is fine. She's now able to actually communicate with people via things like e-mail. Can you imagine the relief that must be, to finally be able to share your thoughts and feelings and in essence, escape the confines of your body? Truly touching.

+ And finally, what do you think about this fellow's assertion that watching sci-fi and other TV shows these days is just too much work because of the serialized nature of most programs? He says:

...TV has turned into work. Not actual drudgery, but presumably for some people an activity on par with reading Proust, or watching Birth of a Nation (or at least reading John Irving or watching The Seventh Seal). My old roommates frantically raced through the first five seasons of The Sopranos to finish before the sixth began. And then they did it again with Lost and The Wire. I’m sure they had fun, but they also had to keep a tight schedule, to cut out social obligations, and to press on when they were tired and wanted to stop.

Personally, I like the way TV shows have become more Dickensian in style, rolling out long involved storylines. Maybe it's the English major in me, but I like having stuff to analyze. Viva la longish, convoluted TV!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Getting to know The Doctor

Pull to open, indeed.

Remember how "Doctor Who"'s David Tennant was our Nerd Man a few months ago and I said that I kind of liked the show but didn't really know that much about it? And then later I saw a few more episodes but still didn't know much about it? Well, I decided finally to do something about that gap in my pop culture knowledge and started renting what I believe is Season 2 of the new "Doctor Who" from Netflix. (Season one's the one with Christopher Eccleston, right?) I figured I'd start with Doctor #10 because, well, just look at that hair! (Yes, I am deeply and oxymoronically shallow.) I'm about seven episodes in so far and I gotta say, I'm enjoying the hell out of it.

I figured it would be funny and it certainly fills my need for goofy sci-fi monsters and ridiculous plots. What I didn't realize was quite how exciting it would be or how emotional. I have to admit, I got completely choked up in the episode where Ten is reunited with his past companion Sarah Jane (and Anthony Stewart Head eats children -- that wasn't the teary part) who tries to explain to The Doctor what it was like to get left behind. Okay, I knew zero, nothing and nada about what had gone on in past episodes, but wow, it was sniffle city when poor Sarah told him no other man had matched up to him. And seriously, her robot dog got to me, too. And then realizing that the Doctor's current companion, poor Rose, would one day go through the Companion Ditching, too. Ugh. This must be what "normal" women feel like when they watch "Sex and the City." Except for the robotic dog part.

Oh, and the two-parter with the Cybermen! Seems lame on paper: mad scientists puts human brains in robotic army to take over world. Oookay, but damn, it was exciting! Poor Rose and her parallel universe family. At least they named the dog after her.

The real draw, though, is Tennant. He's so frenetic, careening from one emotion to another. So charming and effusive one minute and then truly scary the next. He gives the Doctor more than enough edge to keep him from going cartoony. And I like the fact that the Doctor is not always a nice guy. He can be cold and deeply arrogant. But flawed heroes are the best heroes, right? All I know is, when the Doctor yells, it's six parts scary and four parts sexy...and that's pretty much reason enough to watch the show right there.

I'm not quite sure how I'm going to feel watching a new Doctor when the time comes. And that conceit of a new doctor every few years ties in with the one thing about the show I don't actually like. It's the same thing that always bothered me about "Star Trek" actually and that's the fact that the show is restricted by its format. I know just by watching the ten or so episodes I've seen that the relationship between Rose and the Doctor will likely never be resolved in a satisfying way because the Doctor is always meant to change and the Companion is always meant to change. Perhaps I'm wrong about this, but I can see where the writers hold back on what could be very powerful scenes or character developments because of the impermanence of these individuals. It's kind of a drag, but certainly not enough of a drag to get me to stop watching.

This post was meant as my act of contrition to any and all people who told me I'd grow to love this show. You were right! And yes, you don't even have to say it: I'll be trying "Torchwood" too.

ETA: It's now official that Tennant will be leaving after this coming season of "Who." Was it something I said??

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nerd Man: Anthony Stewart Head

Nostalgia made me do it. I admit right here and now that the selection of Anthony Stewart Head as October’s much-delayed Nerd Man of the Month was at least in part* the result of listening to the “Once More With Feeling” soundtrack and remembering just how wonderful Head was as Giles on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” And that voice! No one can deny the magnetic quality of that voice. Le rowr.

A true journeyman actor, Head seems to pop up everywhere and often when you least expect it. After starting off in those God-awful coffee commercials years ago, he ended up on the sci-fi series VR-5. Then later, there was Buffy, which deserves a paragraph of its own. We had the BBC’s “Manchild” series, which I adored. He sang his transvestite heart out in the London revival of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” He popped up in “Sweeney Todd.” He rocked in “Doctor Who.” (And what a loss that he didn’t get the part of the Eighth Doctor. He’d have been perfect.) He looked wonderfully confused and stern in “Little Britain.” He’s going to be in the BBC’s “Merlin” series as King Arthur’s father, and he’s got a very disturbing and gory musical film coming out called “Repo! The Genetic Opera.” The man’s even got his own CD, “Music For Elevators.”

As terrific as Head is in all those parts, it's his role as Giles that truly cements his nerd man status. Sarah Michelle Gellar may have been the star of “Buffy” and James Marsters and David Boreanez its heart throbs, but Head was the anchor. A show about teenagers and the pain of growing up needed a strong parent figure and Head’s Giles was always up to the challenge. He was caring and funny and charmingly self-involved – his mid-life crisis after his “kids” went away to college was particularly great. Most of all, Giles was smart and may well have been the first character in the history of television to make research sexy. The true value of Head became clear after he left the show in season 6 when, in my opinion, “Buffy” lost so much of its heart.

Besides the acting skills and genre credentials, by all accounts Head just seems like a nice guy. And we nerdy chicks dig the nice guys. Plus, aesthetically speaking, just look at that photo. What’s not to love?

So, for being a stellar actor, for filling our genre needs, for having a voice that makes us purr, for making Giles awesome and for being a generally swell fellow, The Park Bench is pleased to name Anthony Stewart Head as its October Nerd Man of the Month.

* Agent57 was also kind enough to suggest Head during my plea for nominees last week. Thanks, Agent57!