Monday, November 30, 2009

Nerd Man of the Month: Hugh Laurie

At first blush, Hugh Laurie may not seem like an obvious choice for Nerd Man of the Month, what with him being a network TV superstar for playing a misanthropic, drug-abusing doctor on FOX's "House." Upon closer examination, however, the man fits four very important criteria that I've just now made up: he's very, very smart; he's a comedy icon; he's written a novel; and he's English. That's pretty much what it takes to earn the honor these days...and by "these days," I mean, of course, November. Well done, Hugh!

First, let's take a look at that "smart" category. The fellow earned a degree from Cambridge University and studied archaeology and anthropology while having the very good sense to date classmate Emma Thompson, who, as we all know, should have her own wing in the Museum of Awesome Women. (A quick aside: Emma Thompson is the best realistic cryer in movies. Ever.) Oh, and let's talk about that whole "writing a novel" thing -- called "The Gun Seller," it was a spoof of the thriller genre and you know what? It was really good. Couple that with his genuine musical talent and it appears we might have a Renaissance Man on our hands.

And boy oh boy, Hugh Laurie is ridiculously funny. I was a huge fan of Fry and Laurie growing up, and fell in love with their sketch comedy show. Check out this bit featuring a man with a very unusual last name:

Then there was "Blackadder" with Rowan Atkinson. Laurie is hysterically funny as the sunny-natured by irredeemably stupid Prince George. A kind-hearted person has compiled a few fine Prince George moments below:

And then we had the marvelous "Jeeves and Wooster" series, based on the P.G. Wodehouse novels. (And in no way was my choice of Laurie swayed this month by the fact that I've been reading Wodehouse. No way. Uh-uh. Maybe a little.) Laurie played the wonderfully wide-eyed and chronically ridiculous Bertie Wooster, a fellow who would be lost without his faithful manservant Jeeves.

Along the way, there have been other terrific roles in "Sense and Sensibility," "Stuart Little" and oh yes, that "House" program in which he is simply riveting, giving a performance week after week that is so good, it makes you forgive and forget some of the weaknesses of the show itself. He's like the Superman of that series, propping up awkward storylines in a single charismatic bound.

So, for being smart, funny, literate and English, The Park Bench is pleased to name Hugh Laurie as Nerd Man of the Month for November.

Monday Odds & Ends: awesome deleted scenes, gifts for TV junkies, Eccleston, smart people and microbes

Hope all you American sorts had a wonderful long Thanksgiving weekend, and for everyone else, well, I hope you had a wonderful regular-sized weekend! Now on with the newsy nuggets:

+ Here's a handy compilation of 40 deleted scenes from top sci-fi movies including "Star Wars," "Star Trek," "Terminator," "Iron Man" and more. Who knew Han Solo originally had a chickie by his side in the cantina scene? Okay, probably a lot of people, but it was news to me!

+ Television Without Pity has a gift guide for TV junkies, which includes...wait for it...Dharma Initiative jump suits! I want one, and when I get it, I'm going to line it with flannel and use it as my winter couch potato uniform. It'll dub it my Ben Linus snuggie.

+ Last month's Nerd Man winner Christopher Eccleston has been cast as John Lennon in a biopic for BBC 4 called "Lennon Naked," chronicling the years 1967 to 1971. In a funny "Who"-vian coincidence, "Torchwood"'s Naoko Mori will play Yoko Ono. The film will air next year. Thanks, Michele, for the tip!

+ Ever wonder which American city has the smartest people? According to a recent "Travel + Leisure" survey, the answer is...Minneapolis, Minnesota. I'm pretty sure anyone who's ever watched "MST3K" knew that already.

+ Check out these amazing photographs of microbes! They're gorgeous, and are part of a new online museum created by Dutch photographer Wim von Egmond called the Micropolitan Museum of Microscopic Art Forms, a subsidiary of the Institute for the Promotion of the Less Than One Millimetre.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday Odds & Ends: Whedon, Big Bang, Fellini, True Blood and Tom Baker

+ Joss Whedon has received the 2010 Vanguard Award from the Producers Guild of America and will be honored at some sort of shindig on Jan. 24. Whedon confessed confusion on winning the award as, he says, "...I've never actually guarded a van."

+ Here's an interview with "Big Bang Theory"'s Simon Helberg, who'll always be known as Moist to me, on his recent bathtub sharing exploits with Katee Sackhoff.

+ Sometimes I'm sitting on the sofa, contemplating the universe, and a thought occurs to me: you know what would make the world a better place? A theme park ride based on Fellini's "City of Women." Or at least that's how I imagine it happened for the folks at Italy's Cinecitta Studios. They're building a 400-acre theme park based on the more than 600 films shot there, including a Fellini ride. I can't even imagine how impaired I would have to be to get on a Fellini ride, but I suspect there would be a Woodchuck Cider intravenous drip involved.

+ The hot fashion trend this fall? Darth Vader shoes apparently. Who knew there were so many to choose from? Personally, I'd go for the Converse high-tops. Subtle yet villainous.

+ Be sure to add these to your holiday gift lists: "True Blood" figurines featuring Sookie, Bill and Eric. The likenesses are pretty amazing.

+ And finally, in honor of the 46th anniversary of the debut of "Doctor Who," here are some very odd yet very amusing TV ads with Tom Baker hocking a British computer brand. (Via Topless Robot)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Odds & Ends: "Lost," "Chuck," Radcliffe, beating up dinosaurs and Jensen Ackles rocking out

+ For those in need of your annual "Lost" fix, a premiere date for the new season has finally been announced. We'll get a two-hour episode on Tuesday, February 2 at 9 p.m. Yep, that means "Lost" is now on Tuesdays. Can't wait!

+ In other good TV news, "Chuck" returns on Sunday, January 10 before moving back to its usual Monday time slot. Here's a four-minute preview of the new season:

+ Mark your calendars for the 2010 "Simpsons" Treehouse of Horror episode. In a move sure to confuse many, many adolescent girls, Daniel Radcliffe will take part in a "Twilight" spoof, voicing the character of Edmund, a parody of Edward Cullen. Now if they could get Robert Pattinson to voice Harry Potter in the same episode, we'd have meta perfection.

+ Here's something to lord over your husbands or significant others: men married to intelligent women live longer. Whether they want to or not.

+ Looking for some good movies to watch over Thanksgiving? Check out this list of the "Best '30s Movies." Definitely watch "My Man Godfrey," one of my all-time favorite screwball comedies. Ooh, and Errol Flynn in "Captain Blood." If you haven't ogled Errol Flynn, you haven't lived.

+ Remember a while back when we posted that Nerd/Geek/Dork Venn diagram? Well, the folks at have made self-diagnosis even easier with this Nerd, Geek or Dork test. I'm pleased to announce I came out 83 percent nerd. It's kind of a fun test. Thanks to Joanna for the link!

+ I want to play this video game: "Dino D-Day." Yes, it's exactly what it sounds like: dinosaurs meets World War II. In the preview, you actually get to punch a T. rex in the face. Who hasn't wanted to do that since "Jurassic Park III?"

+ And finally, many of you perhaps have already seen this, but if you haven't, it's definitely worth a good Friday laugh. It's "Supernatural"'s Jensen Ackles lip synching to "Eye of the Tiger," and it's kind of awesome. Thanks to Geek Girl Diva for posting this on Twitter yesterday.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday Odds & Ends: Buffy meets Castle, NPH, Nabokov, the impending penguin takeover and Depp

+ For those of you who enjoyed the recent "Firefly" shout-out on "Castle," Nathan Fillion announced on Twitter yesterday that "Buffy" fans have something to look forward to on "Castle" as well. Hopefully Rick Castle doesn't start blinding characters in a tip o' the hat to Caleb.

+ Also in Twitter news, you can now follow Neil Patrick Harris, who, perhaps unsurprisingly, is pretty funny.

+ The Penguin Books website has a cool new interactive feature where you can see the note cards upon which Vladimir Nabokov wrote his last novel, "The Original of Laura," which was completed recently by Nabokov's son.

+ Speaking of penguins, scientists have discovered that these awesome water fowl are evolving at a rate two to six times faster than originally thought. You know what that means: penguin overlords by 2012. Sure, we'll all smell like herring but that's a small price to pay for perpetual formal wear, don't you think?

+ Here's a cute interview with Katee Sackhoff in which she talks about her new role in "24" and also her theory on what happened to Starbuck. She also shares an oddly disturbing but completely believable story about Edward James Olmos.

+ It's a big day for Johnny Depp. It's been announced that he'll be earning roughly $38 million to play Captain Jack Sparrow in a fourth "Pirates" film, making him the highest paid actor in Hollywood. And he's People Magazine's new "Sexiest Man Alive." To which I say, well, duh.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Review: "The Waters of Mars"

Given all I had heard about the latest "Doctor Who" special, "The Waters of Mars," I thought I would be prepared for just how dark this claustrophobic adventure tale would be. But, ah, nope, it still packed a hell of a punch, and I love it even more for that.

From the moment the Doctor first steps out of the Tardis onto the Martian landscape, keen on finding a bit of fun, the story grabbed me and never let go. Without giving too much away, the plot revolves around a water-based invader that begins to attack the human researchers of Bowie Base One, the first human colony on Mars and the culmination of humankind's first tentative steps toward long-range space travel.

The Doctor arrives on what seems like a perfectly ordinary day, interested in exploring the red planet and doing his usual "aren't humans amazing" bit upon meeting the researchers. Suffice is to say, things go down hill quickly when mere drops of water prove deadly, and the Doctor is forced to make a decision that will be felt well beyond Bowie Base One.

Despite the explosions and running and the usual pulse-pounding action, to me this seemed like one of the most intimate "Doctor Who" episodes in quite a while. In fact, it reminded me of "Boom Town," a quiet sleeper episode from season one in which, again, the Doctor is asked to face a very difficult decision. The most effective scenes in "Waters of Mars" are those between Tennant and Lindsey Duncan as Adelaide, the base's leader. The push-pull of their moments together is fascinating and wrenching, worthy of some of the best in recent "Who" history.

Tennant is wonderful as his Doctor fights against the prediction of his impending demise made at the end of "Planet of the Dead." You can feel his panic and anger, and the direction this takes is surprising but at the same time feels inevitable. What transpires makes me wish we had more episodes in which to explore the Doctor in this state of mind.

Sadly, though, "The Waters of Mars" reminds us without question that this doctor's journey is coming to a close. And it has set the stage quite well, ramping us up for what promises to be an amazing closing act. I've already prepared my hankies. I have a feeling I'll be needing a lot of them.

For American audiences, "The Waters of Mars" airs on BBC America on Dec. 19.

For UK folks and others who may have used some sort of magic to view it, what did you guys think of the episode? Try to be as spoiler-free as possible in your comments. My husband is waiting to watch it in HD and will cry sad yet manly tears if he gets spoiled.

Monday Odds & Ends: Star Trek, Stephanie Meyer, Roger Corman, meteors and prostitutes

+ In anticipation of tomorrow's DVD and Blu-Ray release of "Star Trek," here are a few selections from the behind the scenes materials included in the package. It looks like it's going to be a real treasure trove of goodies. Can't wait to watch it again!

+ Stephanie Meyer was on "Oprah" this past Friday to promote the Nov. 20 release of "New Moon." Apparently, she's got vampire fatigue too.

+ How cool is this? King of the B-Movies Roger Corman earned an honorary Oscar on Saturday along with Lauren Bacall and cinematographer Gordon Willis.

+ Hey, if you've got clear skies tonight, don't forget to check out the Leonid meteor shower. If you're like me, you can ramp up your paranoia enough to pretend it's an invasion. Which really isn't healthy for anyone yet I manage to do it every damn time.

+ Plans are in the works for motion-comic webisodes of the "Buffy" season 8 comic books. Voice casting is taking place right now, which means production should be starting fairly soon.

+ And finally, who says smart geeky women can't be highly paid prostitutes just like everyone else? No one now, thanks to University of Bristol researcher Brooke Magnanti, who broke that glass ceiling by revealing she's the famed call girl and blogger Belle de Jour, whose chronicle of her experiences sparked three books and the British TV series "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" with Billie Piper.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Odds & Ends: Barrowman & Beyonce, Ejiofor, Stephen King and the garden jawa

+ It's Friday and we could all use a little pick-me-up, right? So let's settle back and watch this hilarious video of John Barrowman dancing to Beyonce's "Single Ladies." Whoever made this, I love them very, very much.

+ Here's an interview with Chiwetel Ejiofor on his role in "2012." I skimmed the article and he doesn't once use the phrase "I can't believe I was in 'Serenity' and now I'm in this, what the hell??" so kudos on the restraint there.

+ Thousands of Stephen King fans apparently took part in an enormous game of hide and seek, stashing bits and pieces of King's new novel, "Under the Dome," all over London.

+ Don't forget, Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr. Fox" opens today in limited release, and the reviews have been pretty stellar, including this one from Cinema Blend.

+ My neighbor's head would explode in rage if I got one of these...which makes it all the more tempting. Yes, my friends, someone has created Garden Jawas. Instead of gnomes, you can plant these plucky little fellows all over your front yard. I love how he has garden tools stashed in his utility belt. Genius!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thursday Odds & Ends: "Dollhouse" demise, "Star Wars," Bradbury, "Wallace and Gromit" and "Hamlet"

+ As most of you have probably already heard, Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse" got axed yesterday by Fox. They'll still air the remainder of the episodes and word on the street is that the final stretch will be action-packed and amazing. My condolences to all the "Dollhouse" fans out there. On the bright side, at least this means Joss has more time to work on the "Dr. Horrible" sequel.

+ Want to cheer yourself up with some "Star Wars" tunes? Indulge in a new edition of "Star Wars Gangsta Rap" which actually manages to make Luke Skywalker a lot cooler than he was in the actual movies. Thanks for sending this, Emily!

ALL NEW! Star Wars Gangsta Rap: Chronicles

+ Did you know that you can buy "Wallace and Gromit" comics for your iPhone and iTouch? There are four new comics designed exclusively for download JUST FOR YOU! Or maybe the person behind you. It's difficult to tell.

+ The A.V. Club has their list of the "Best TV Series of the '00s," or "the aughts" as I prefer to call them. I agree with pretty much everything on the list, and am now thinking I'll have to check out "Venture Bros." someday soon.

+ Are you sitting at work bored right now? Say, why not draw a Tauntaun while you still have that "Star Wars" rap thrumming through your brain? "Mouse Guard" creator David Petersen shows you how with these step-by-step instructions.

+ Legendary author Ray Bradbury will help develop a new TV miniseries based on six of his short stories and tentatively called "The Bradbury Chronicles." Nifty!

+ And finally, in a news item all about Shakespeare and NOT AT ALL about David Tennant, here's a clip of an upcoming BBC film release of "Hamlet" starring Patrick Stewart and some guy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday Odds & Ends: New York Public Library, Clash of the Titans, Carrie Fisher and hairless bears

My apologies for the lack of blogging the last couple of days. I was not, as perhaps hoped by all of us, taken up by the TARDIS but instead, just snowed under with a work project. I'm back though and here's some newsy tidbits. Oh, and also, a picture of a naked bear but we'll save that for the end.

+ The New York Times ran a wonderful article yesterday highlighting some odd and unusual facts about the New York Public Library, which is apparently the third largest library in the world behind the Library of Congress and the British Library. Thank you, Maggie, for the link!

+ Check out these adorable "Doctor Who" amigurumi crochet dolls. The glasses are perfect! Thank you to Ciri, who's not a Doctor Who fan but knows a lot of us are, for the link!

+ There's a trailer out for the remake of "Clash of the Titans," which sort of looks like "300" but with 100 percent more Medusa. Basically, it looks cheesy but I'll go see anything based even remotely on classical mythology. I'm that easy!

+ I enjoyed this A.V. Club list of "16 Ways to Survive a Stephen King Story." My favorite suggestion? Pack a lunch.

+ Here's a nifty little interview with Elizabeth Mitchell about her roles in "V" and "Lost." Also, if you can figure out why there's a picture of "Mork and Mindy" at the top of the page for no apparent reason, please let me know.

+ Have you visited the official Carrie Fisher store? Yes, apparently she has one! And it's got one particular awesome item that looks like this:

+ Ah, there's reasons I love the French and this is one of them: Renault's Zoe Z.E. electric car, set to debut in 2012, which was designed with the help of the Biotherm cosmetics company. The car serves as a sort of spa on wheels with special air filtration systems and oil release systems to help improve and protect your skin.

+ And finally, for no other reason than the fact that it freaks me the hell out, here's a picture of a furless German bear that has apparently developed some sort of genetic skin condition. Does it or does it not look like a person wearing a bear suit or something out of "An American Werewolf in London?" Weird. Very weird.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Friday Odds & Ends: "30 Rock," bees, Wil Wheaton and "2013"

+ Tina Fey shares her "10 Favorite '30 Rock' Moments." It's a terrific list -- very interesting to see which stuff makes her laugh.

+ If you haven't seen it yet, The New York Times did a wonderful audio/photo essay on beekeeping on the south lawn of The White House. It's really a lovely story.

+ Did you know that Wil Wheaton is secretly in the J.J. Abrams "Star Trek?" Yup. Although I guess it's not really a secret now. But still very cool!

+ Do we really need more depressing television? I vote no, but apparently, my vote doesn't count because we'll soon be getting a TV sequel to Roland Emmerich's "2012" disaster flick. I'm assuming the TV show will be similar in tone and execution to Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," right? But with commercials and glimpses of Jay Leno. Am I right or am I right?

+ So what did you guys think of "V" this week? I wasn't too thrilled with the first 40 minutes or so, but felt things started to roll toward the end. Color me mildly interested. I'll probably give it a second shot but I'm not sure if I want to go steady with it yet.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Wednesday Odds & Ends: Dr. Horrible sequel, Caprica, Roger Rabbit, fashion accessories and sleeping in space

+ Sounds like plans for a "Dr. Horrible" sequel are well underway with a couple of new songs penned, a title decided on and interest from cast members in returning. So says Mr. Fillion, who would not lie to us.

+ And while I'm excited about the possibilities of more "Dr. Horrible," I'm less enthused about the idea of a new "Roger Rabbit," but apparently, there's a script being written and original "Roger" director Robert Zemeckis is involved. Thanks, Megan, for the link!

+ There's a new "Caprica" trailer out there, with glimpses of future guest star James Marsters, who pretty much makes any TV show better. Let's get him on "The View!"

+ Famed French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss passed away recently at the age of 100. And yes, while writing that sentence, I immediately thought about how cool it would be if he could have downloaded his consciousness into a Cylon body. I have problems...

+ Looking to gussy up your wardrobe? Check out these cute "Grr! Argh!" necklaces and these equally awesome John Cleese/Ministry of Silly Walks t-shirts. Thanks to CJP and Joanna for the tips!

+ And finally, if you have $4.4 million lying around, well, may I invite you to advertise heavily on The Park Bench? Of course, if that doesn't interest you, then you can use the cash to reserve a hotel room IN SPACE! Yes, make your reservations now for a room in the Galactic Suite Space Resort, scheduled to open in 2012. I wonder if they have turn-down service or would the little chocolates float off the pillow?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Tuesday Odds & Ends: Tennant in America, Whedon and the Terminator, Sir Christopher Lee and spiders

+ This morning on I Can't Believe She's Got Another Item on Tennant The Park Bench, the big news is that David Tennant will be starring in a TV series pilot for NBC called "Rex Is Not Your Lawyer" about "a top Chicago litigator who begins suffering panic attacks and takes up coaching clients to represent themselves in court." Dear NBC, I know you like to do dumb things like put Jay Leno on the TV, but please let Tennant use his real accent. Please? I will buy you a cookie if you say yes.

+ Speaking of buying things, Joss Whedon has made a hilarious offer to buy the rights to "Terminator." In his "Open Letter to the Terminator Owners. From a Very Important Hollywood Mogul," Joss provides some insight into how he'd revive the franchise:

Terminator... of the Rings! Yeah, what if he time-travelled TOO far... back to when there was dragons and wizards? (I think it was the Dark Ages.) Hasta La Vista, Boramir! Cool, huh? "Now you gonna be Gandalf the Red!" RRRRIP! But then he totally helps, because he's a cyborg and he doesn't give a s#&% about the ring -- it has no power over him! And he can carry it AND Frodo AND Sam AND f@%& up some orcs while he's doing it. This stuff just comes to me. I mean it. (I will also offer $10,000 for the Lord of the Rings franchise).

+ Sci-fi, fantasy and horror legend Christopher Lee has been knighted for Prince Charles on behalf of the Queen for his contributions to drama and charity work. Well-deserved indeed!

+ Don't forget that "V" debuts tonight at 8 p.m. EST on ABC. The early reviews have been good so far.

+ Want to follow some cool folks who make comics? This site has compiled a list of comic book industry Twitterers for your easy reference.

+ Big science news this morning: apparently, the dinosaurs of Sussex never dusted, and as a result, scientists have found a 140-million-year-old spider web preserved in amber.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Monday Odds & Ends: Ouija boards, 'Lil Cthulu, type chess sets, space jogging and Christopher Walken

+ USA Today has a preview of "BSG" alumna Katee Sackhoff's Nov. 23 appearance on "The Big Bang Theory." It sounds like a pretty clever idea, opening the door for future visits.

+ Well, here's a recipe for high-quality cinematic success: take the writers of "Tron Legacy" and have them write a movie about Ouija boards. I hope the end result is as good as when RKO signed Orson Welles to pen that movie about "Go Fish!," originally called "Do You Have Any Sixes?" and then later renamed "The Magnificent Ambersons."

+ Aww, so cute and evil -- check out "The Amazing Adventures of Lil Cthulu." Not only is it adorable in a dark and menacing way, it also taught me how to say "cthulu." It's a win-win!

+ The first footage from the new "Doctor Who" animated special, "Dreamland" has been released. As excited as I was about the initial concept drawings, I can't say I'm 100 percent thrilled with what it all looks like in action. What do you think? (via Blogtor Who)

+ Ever dreamed of combining your love of type and chess? Well, check out this Type Chess Set. (Via InnyM at Twitter)

+ This cool new exercise treadmill allows runners to trot along with an awesome anti-gravity feeling, something I'd much prefer over the usual "I'm running on pavement and pounding my shins into the ground." It's a little on the pricy side at $24,000 but hey, you can pretend you're running on the Moon. That's worth it, right?

+ And finally, what better way to start your Monday than with Christopher Walken doing a dramatic reading of Lady Gaga's song "Poker Face?"