Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

CSI: A Retrospective September 26, 2015

Filed under: Memories — Emily @ 5:53 pm
Tags: , , ,

Fifteen years ago, I was a first year graduate student at the University of Alabama. It was my first time living on my own (all my family and friends lived 5+ hours away), and when I moved to Tuscaloosa, I only knew one person there. That first year, I was attending school on a fellowship, which meant that I was given a monthly stipend to live on while I was working on my Masters in English.

Since I barely knew anyone in town, and since I didn’t have a job, I spent a lot of time alone in my little apartment those first few months. I used my free AOL dial-up to connect to the Internet and chat with friends on ICQ, or download music on Napster. But my constant companion during the fall of 2000 was television. Every night, I would sit down with my bowl of cereal or bagged spinach salad or Lipton noodles, and see what my favorite characters were up to. While I was firmly entrenched in the WB at that time (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Roswell, and Dawson’s Creek were all appointment tv), there was one new show that intrigued me.

CSI

The original cast of CSI. These were my people!

What I remember about the pilot episode is a lot of blue lighting and an unusual amount of screen time for a pair of shoes. I was skeptical of this show about unusually attractive crime scene investigators because it was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who, at the time, I only associated with over the top explosions, dramatic electric guitar background music, and slow motion shots of groups of people walking forward (think Con Air and Armageddon). Despite my reservations, I just couldn’t seem to look away when the case of the week was revealed in the opening segment. And so began my on-again, off-again relationship with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Over the next few seasons, I enjoyed getting to know the characters just as much as trying to solve the crime. Would Warrick ever overcome his gambling addiction? Would Catherine ever get the respect she deserved? How was Nick such a nice guy when so many bad things happened to him? What made Grissom see the world so differently than everyone else? During that first solitary year of graduate school, and especially during the uncertain, dark days after 9/11, I took comfort in escaping into these characters’ lives and the fictional cases they investigated.

Fast forward a few years, and I was introduced to the wonders of Tivo! No longer confined to the limitations of live tv and one VCR, I expanded my list of shows. Somehow, when compared to Lost, Alias, 24, and Veronica Mars, Grissom and company were no longer appointment tv. And so, for a few years, I parted ways with this band of crafty crime solvers.

Fast forward to 2008. My life had changed a lot since the days of eating meager dinners in front of the tv in my 400 sq. ft. apartment in Tuscaloosa. I’d gotten married, finished graduate school, moved to Dallas, started teaching college writing courses, bought a house… And on March 1, 2008, Brad and I became parents!

One day as I sat in the living room nursing newborn Benjamin and flipping channels, I stumbled across an old episode of CSI on Spike TV. I was quickly drawn back into that world, and I wanted to catch up on what I’d been missing the last few seasons. Much to my delight, I discovered that Spike TV had nothing better to do than air several episodes of CSI everyday. Anyone who has experienced the challenges of breastfeeding knows that it’s not unusual to spend hours a day (or night) confined to a chair while feeding your baby. And so, in a different stage of life than my grad school days, CSI had resumed its place as my companion in a time of solitude. For the next few months, I became reacquainted with Grissom, Catherine, Nick, and the whole gang. I watched multiple episodes a day, and before I knew it, I was all caught up. I have vivid memories of watching episodes in the middle of the night, when our house was totally quiet and it was just me, the baby, and my pals in the crime lab. (I wouldn’t join Facebook until later that year, so I didn’t yet have my NewsFeed as a source of round the clock community.)

I guess now I could dub my marathon viewing of the first eight seasons “the great CSI binge watch of 2008.” Binge watching is easy these days, with a Netflix or Hulu subscription and some time to spare, but I had to get creative to record all the episodes, even with Tivo’s help. There were highs and lows in this batch of episodes: I was fascinated by the miniature killer story arc, and I was devastated by Warrick’s untimely death. Eventually, my rekindled fascination with the show waned, when I decided that the more gruesome or tragic episodes were too much for my newfound maternal feelings to handle.

While I was intrigued by Laurence Fishburne’s addition to the cast, his presence wasn’t enough to carry the show after William Petersen’s departure. My last exposure to CSI was probably in 2010. I’ve only heard bits and pieces about Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue being on the show, and that never seemed right to me. I still think of him as a bartender on Cheers and of her as Daniel’s girlfriend in The Karate Kid. Why are they now the leads on a crime drama? I hadn’t really thought about CSI at all for a few years until I saw a headline this morning about its series finale, which will air as a tv movie tomorrow night. When I read that Grissom, Catherine, and many of the other former characters would be returning, I knew that I had to watch it. It will be nice to revisit these old “friends” who I spent time with off and on over the last decade and a half of my life. Not even Jerry Bruckheimer and his cliched production values could ruin this highly stylized, clever, engaging show. While it might have gone on a few seasons too long, and while I could do without the comical number of spin-offs it has led to, CSI has earned its place in television history as a crime procedural with likable characters and clever execution. Thanks for the memories!

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Ten Reasons I Love Parenthood October 19, 2010

Filed under: Television — Emily @ 12:26 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Yes, I love my children, but in this case I’m talking about the NBC drama currently in its sophomore season. It wasn’t love at first sight. In fact, after I watched the first few episodes, I let the rest of season one pile up on my Tivo, and at one point considered just deleting them all. Being over ten episodes “behind” on a tv show is very intimidating! Thank goodness I decided to give the show another look! I jumped back in at the end of July, and despite being busy having a baby and all, I managed to finish out the first season in just a few weeks. Now I eagerly await each new episode of season two. What’s so great about this show, which is yet another tv adaptation of the 80s movie starring Steve Martin? Let me give you ten reasons:

  1. Lauren Graham – Seeing her on this show makes me realize how much I miss Gilmore Girls. I loved the snarky dialogue, Luke, the overabundance of coffee, etc. Parenthood may not have a Luke, but there is plenty of coffee and clever scriptwriting. Former Lorelai Gilmore is at the heart of this show, playing the family’s underachieving daughter, Sarah Braverman. She’s a single mom to two struggling teenagers, works as a bartender, and can’t seem to maintain a relationship for much longer than the first date. She may have issues, but she’s sure fun to listen to. She often provides the commentary on how ridiculous some of the situations in the Braverman family are. I wonder how the show would have been different if the role had gone to Maura Tierney, as originally planned. I doubt the character would have been as funny and bubbly.
  2. The Adam and Kristina Braverman Family – Adam is the oldest Braverman son, and so everyone turns to him for advice and problem solving. Meanwhile, he and his wife have their hands full at home, with teenage daughter Haddie, and Asperger’s-diagnosed son Max. This family’s conflicts, conversations, and household atmosphere seem very realistic to me. I especially like how the writers handle Max’s Asperger’s syndrome. Aspergers and autism are becoming more common, so it’s good that a network show is dealing with them in what seems to be a realistic way. Haddie is a smartly written character as well. She relies on, is embarrassed by, and is trying to be independent from her family all at once.
  3. Zeek and Camille’s Marriage – I like the way the show handles the patriarch and matriarch’s relationship. They have been married for decades, but have never fully dealt with some major issues. As a result, they separate for awhile, then start going to counseling and trying to heal the parts of their relationship that aren’t working. I love Zeek’s character development: he started out as a stubborn, gruff man who wouldn’t admit anything was wrong. But because he loves his wife, he embraces the new mantra “I see you, I hear you,” starts taking ballroom dance lessons, and begins to see everything he’s been missing about his wife all these years. And Camille is skeptical but appreciative of his efforts. Such a sweet subplot, and it gives Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia something more interesting to work with than simply being the token grandparents doling out their wisdom and life lessons.
  4. The Stay at Home Dad – Taking a more realistic approach than Michael Keaton’s 80s hit Mr. Mom, Parenthood shows us a slice of life where mom (Julia) is the breadwinner (as a lawyer), and dad (Joel) takes care of the homefront and daughter Sydney. This is the least interesting family unit on the show, but it is still a nice change to see a dad dealing with things like play dates and house cleaning. As one would imagine, having a man in the mix of stay at home moms has led to some awkward moments, and some jealousy from Julia.
  5. Crosby and his Houseboat – The youngest of the Braverman clan gives us a taste of the opposite side of the spectrum. While (at least two) of his siblings are living the typical suburban family life, he is living in a cool houseboat, working at a music studio, going to parties, and trying to figure out how to parent the son he just found out he has. His Bohemian attitude and influence on the family add some flavor to the show. I’m not crazy about his girlfriend Jasmine, but they have developed her character a little more, so there’s hope her likability will improve. And their son, Jabbar, is about as cute as a kid can be.
  6. Mae Whitman – I can’t think of a more convincing teen actress on tv today than Whitman. She plays Sarah’s daughter, Amber. Amber is both rebellious and respectful of her mom, has a good head on her shoulders, and learns from her mistakes. Whitman previously played George Michael’s frumpy girlfriend Ann (or as Michael called her, Egg) on Arrested Development, and played another troubled teen on Andre Braugher’s short-lived show Thief. It is refreshing to see a young actress so comfortable and convincing on screen, in a sea full of mediocre young actors (with a few exceptions, of course) on all those CW shows.
  7. The Opening Theme – “May God bless and keep you always, may your wishes all come true, may you always do for others, and let others do for you…” I love this Bob Dylan song – the tune, the lyrics, everything. And it’s the perfect theme song for this show that’s all about parents trying to raise their children well and prepare them for the world. I always watch the opening sequence, both because I enjoy hearing the song and seeing pictures of the cast at different stages of their lives (a la Growing Pains).
  8. The Music – The opening theme isn’t the only song to enjoy on this show. Music plays an integral role in setting the tone – from playful to melancholy to nostalgic, and everything in between. I was pleased to see that there is a Parenthood Season One soundtrack. I love shows and movies that use music to successfully engage the viewers (think Garden State, Elizabethtown, Dawson’s Creek, Grey’s Anatomy). There’s also an element of product placement with the music, which is only slightly annoying, since I’m actually interested in knowing who is singing the song. For example, Ray La Montagne’s name has been mentioned more than once, such as when Adam was listening to him on the way to work.
  9. The Braverman house – Zeek and Camille’s house has a lot of character. It’s a big, old house with a large yard, and a guesthouse. Everyone gathers on the patio (surrounded by bountiful flowers and greenery) for family dinners. Every time I see it, I think how nice it would be to have a large house like that with plenty of room for the extended family to hang out.
  10. Jason Katims’ involvement – Sometimes I’ll watch a show just because I respect the person behind the camera. The first two names that come to mind are J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon, but not far behind them is Jason Katims. He is the man who brought us Roswell, Friday Night Lights, and Boston Public, all great shows in their own way. And he writes most of the Parenthood episodes, so I know they will be clever and enjoyable. And in the end, the balance of great writing, smart casting, and convincing acting are what make this show work so well.

If you haven’t checked this show out yet, I encourage you to do so. If you are a late 20s or 30 something family-centered individual like me, you won’t be disappointed!

 

Remembering As the World Turns September 21, 2010

Filed under: 1980s,Memories,Television — Emily @ 3:54 pm
Tags: , , ,

The "As the World Turns" opening logo, as it appeared in the 1980s

Some warbled, dramatic music and a slowly rotating Earth – that is the As the World Turns intro that I remember from my childhood. It was the era of the Snyders and their farm, the Lily/Holden/Dusty love triangle, the James Stenbeck who always (shock!) returned from presumed death, etc. Growing up, every afternoon between 1 and 2 p.m. my mom was watching As the World Turns, which means that most days, so was I.

I stopped watching the show years ago, except for the summer after graduate school when I was unemployed and got sucked back in to day time tv again for a few months. The beauty (or perhaps tragedy) of soap operas is that even if you haven’t watched the show in ten years, you can pick right back up, since there is always a core group of characters who have grown up or grown old on the show. And so, from time to time (as in, once every few years…), I have read the weekly update in the newspaper, and know what’s going on in Oakdale.

I’m not sure whether to be sad, pleased, or indifferent about the apparently imminent death of all soap operas. Several soaps have left the air over the past few years, and new ones aren’t replacing them. Apparently more people want to watch judge shows than soaps now. As the World Turns was the latest soap to fall victim to this trend – it aired its final episode last Friday. Out of nostalgia, I watched the finale.

What is a fitting send-off for a show that’s been running for over 50 years? Certainly not the uneventful, dull episode that the writers came up with. I suppose they were focusing on closure for those Oakdale residents who managed to survive to the end without being murdered, dying of a rare disease, going to prison, getting amnesia, etc. Here’s what I gathered from the finale:

  • Jack and Carly are happily married – again – and have a baby on the way, not to be confused with the baby that Jack recently discovered he’s not the father of.
  • Lily and Holden are once again having problems (in fact, it looks like they are separated/divorced), but it looks like these true loves are going to find their way back to each other again.
  • Lucinda and John Dixon rekindled their love for one another while in Europe, and they plan to live the rest of their days enjoying each other’s company, much to Lisa’s chagrin.
  • In the strangest development, Barbara Ryan is happily involved with a much younger Henry, and they seem to spend their time dancing to disco music at home, even with a disco ball and multi-colored lights. She even dissolved her partnership in her fashion company with her son, Paul. Luckily, Paul had been about to do the same thing. They have now “set each other free,” and Paul is happily involved with Emily.
  • Emily’s much younger sister, Allison, moved away with Tom and Margo’s son Casey. I couldn’t quite figure out what they were doing. Surely they are older than college aged by now.
  • Margo was quite distraught about her youngest son leaving home, but Tom helped her focus on the positive, and now that they are empty nesters, they conveniently switched homes with Katie and Chris, who just got engaged and are planning to fill a house up with kids.
  • Coincidentally, Katie and Chris’s condo once belonged to some guy who died and was in a relationship with Luke (Lily’s son). The guy’s heart was transplanted into Chris, so Luke came over to listen to Chris’s heartbeat with a stethoscope.
  • Bob Hughes retired as Chief of Staff at the hospital, and the show ended with him leaving his office saying , “Goodnight,” with a globe spinning on his desk.

It was weird to see everyone (except Luke – bummer for him) so happy on a soap. That’s actually why it was so boring. Soaps thrive on tragedy, intrigue, and drama. If I had been in charge of the finale, I would have included a shocking or untimely death, an unexpected revelation, and most importantly, plenty of cameos of former characters. Since they episode was centered around Bob’s retirement, why not have a huge retirement party and have some old familiar faces come to town for the event? I don’t know who’s alive or dead, but what about some of the other Snyders, or Craig Montgomery, or Lucinda’s other daughter Sierra. What ever happened to Nancy Hughes? Even if they couldn’t afford to have cameos, or couldn’t figure out how to work these characters into the finale, they could at least have ended with an epic video montage. I certainly would have enjoyed that.

Cast of As the World Turns

Random Memories of the Show

  • Actors who have gone on to success – Not that being on a soap opera doesn’t spell success as an actor… But, some of the faces I remember are Meg Ryan as Craig’s first love, Betsy; Marisa Tomei as one of Lisa’s many children, Marcy, I think; Julianne Moore as Bob and (Lisa’s?) twin daughters Frannie and Sabrina (am I remembering their names correctly?); William Fichtner as Josh; etc.
  • Duncan’s castle – ATWT wasn’t the only soap to feature an exotic setting. Other shows had deserted islands, king’s palaces, or villain’s secret lairs. But I was intrigued as a child by the idea of Duncan McWhoever’s Scottish castle on the outskirts of Oakdale. I remember that he was originally involved with Barbara, then Shannon, then Barbara. And somewhere along the way he had Kira as a foster child (played by Lauren Hill from the Fugees). Who could resist a Scottish man’s charm? I wonder whatever happened to Duncan, and to Jessica and their daughter Bonnie.
  • Casey’s death – Not young Casey, but his namesake – the Casey that much older Lyla married. Lyla was Craig and Margo’s mother. Whatever happened to her? I need to do some Wikipedia reading! I don’t remember what sort of illness he had, but I remember very well how emotional the episode was where Margo decided to grant his wish for an easy death by pulling his plug. 😦
  • The Pond – Ah, the Snyder pond – site of secret rendezvous and romantic starlit dates. All the Snyder kids hung out here at one time or another.
  • The Yacht Club – The site of summer teen drama – all the high school kids would hang out here and get involved in all sorts of shenanigans no doubt.
  • The Snyder family tree – See below for my thoughts on this fun, ongoing mess of a geneology.

Family Tree Game

  • My favorite thing about watching a soap was always trying to plot out the complex family trees. It was best not to dig too deep, or you’d discover that someone was actually married to his sister, or that his stepdaughter was his aunt, or something else bizarre like that. My favorite family tree was always the Snyders, so just for fun I’d like to try to list everyone that I remember by memory. I’ll include a link to the actual family tree when I finish.
  • Emma Snyder – the matriarch! She seemed to spend all her time standing at the kitchen counter giving her many children advice, or just listening to them lament about all their problems. Her children:
    • Seth – I believe he was the oldest
    • Iva – She was adopted, so it’s okay that her brother, Holden, married her daughter Lily. Oddly enough, Lily was the result of Iva being raped by Josh (played by now successful character actor William Fichtner), yet somehow Josh was accepted into the family when he married Ida’s sister, Meg.
    • Ellie – My favorite actress who played Ellie was the one with the short dark brown hair. I don’t really remember what she did on the show. Mostly she just popped in and out of town for visits.
    • Caleb – I think he was one of the sons, but he may have been a Snyder cousin. I do remember that he was married to Julie, and that one night Holden got drunk and slept with her, resulting in a child, or some such.
    • Holden – Ah, the heart throb of Oakdale. I remember him best when he was young and always working in the stables, when he wasn’t swimming in the pond with Lily or having romantic picnics with her. As far as I can tell, he’s the only Snyder who stuck around until the end of the show.
    • Meg – Yeah, I can’t remember what she did either. The sisters never had much to contribute, I guess.
    • Angel – I think she married into the Snyder family. Maybe she was married to Caleb and then Seth for awhile.
  • Let’s see how I did with my Snyder family tree – Pretty close. As I suspected, Caleb was a cousin. I forgot that Holden also married Angel. It’s crazy how many marriages, divorces, and illegitimate children are represented in this family!

Let’s face it: soap operas are about as cheesy and over the top as tv gets. And you can fast forward through a one hour episode and catch all the “important” stuff in about ten minutes. Everything is so drawn out – the long pauses, the contemplative stares or daydreams, the dramatic zoom-in close-ups, etc. The writing is pretty elementary, the acting is usually not great, and the stories are usually predictable. Still, there’s a certain charm to soaps, and it seems like there should still be a place in the world for them. Really, what’s the difference between me finding comfort in a primetime show like Parenthood, and a stay at home mom of the 1980s keeping up with the lives of the Hughes and Snyders in Oakdale? Well, I could think of a few… But hats off to As the World Turns for entertaining millions of women (and some men, too) for over fifty years!

What are your favorite memories of As the World Turns, or any other soaps that you watched?

  • For more As the World Turns nostalgia, visit this website, which does actually feature a video montage that includes some of the old school scenes I would have liked seeing in the finale.
 

Fall 2010 TV: What I’ll Be Watching September 17, 2010

The 2010-2011 television season officially kicks off next week, and it comes at just the right time for me. We took our time this summer finishing up episodes of our shows from last season, and last week we watched (and thoroughly enjoyed) season three of Dexter. That leaves us with only one week of wondering what to watch before our shows are back. Here’s a look at what I’ll definitely be watching this year, by day of the week (I always check out several new shows’ pilots, so it’s possible I may be adding a couple of shows to this list).

  • Sunday:
    • I won’t be watching anything on Sunday evenings, except maybe the occasional NFL game, if the Saints are playing.
  • Monday:
    • There’s no “must see tv” yet for me on this night. Although I still watch the occasional episode of How I Met Your Mother, I lost interest in that show about a season and a half ago. I’ve watched most of the Lone Star pilot, and based on that I don’t think it’s worth investing another hour a week to. I am slightly intrigued by the Hawaii Five-O remake, since it stars Daniel Dae Kim, but I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve seen the pilot.
  • Tuesday:
    • Glee – This was by far my favorite new show last season, and I can’t wait to hear (and download) more songs, laugh at more of Sue Sylvester’s snarky dialogue, and cheer for the rag tag team of misfit Glee clubbers.
    • Parenthood – I fell in love with this show over the summer. Lauren Graham is the main bright spot, but she is surrounded by an outstanding cast of colorful characters. I’m planning to write a “Why You Should Watch Parenthood” post pretty soon, so I’ll save most of my praise for that. Let me just say that the sub plots featured each week on this show seem like pretty realistic depictions of the situations families find themselves facing every day. Since I’m right in the middle of suburban family life, am in my early 30s, and have two kids, I suppose I am part of the target audience, and I’m enjoying every minute of this show that caters to me. Thanks, NBC!
  • Wednesday
    • Modern Family – It’s no surprise that I’m also a fan of this other new family show from last season. I was pleased to see it win so many Emmy’s this year – it is very much deserving. I laugh just as much at this show as I do at any of the other comedies I watch (there are several of them). I love how it finds humor in typical family situations, like the classic family sitcoms of the past few decades, but adds a healthy dose of sarcasm and satire to the mix. Perfect recipe!
  • Thursday
    • Fringe – I’ve been anticipating this show more than any other over the summer. Partly because I actually watched the season finale when it aired, and thus had to wait the full four months to find out what happens next, but also because it left viewers with a crazy cliffhanger! I can’t wait to see what crazy adventures Olivia, Peter, Walter, and Astrid find themselves in the midst of next. I’m also planning a “Why You Should Watch Fringe” post, so stay tuned for that if you have considered watching this show.
    • Community – This little comedy that could grew on me more and more with each episode last season. It has some silly moments that fall flat, but I mostly adore the characters, the frequent pop culture references, and the quirky tone. I liked it from the beginning since I actually teach at a community college. There’s a lot of reality in the show’s portrayal of community college campus life (except maybe for the paint ball war…), taken to the extreme, of course.
    • 30 Rock – I fell behind on this show for awhile last season. It lost some of its edge, spending too much time on Jack and his two girlfriends. Once it turned more attention to Liz’s disfunctional love life, this Emmy darling was back at the top of its game. Liz’s boyfriends on the show have always been hilarious, so I hope we will see more of airline pilot Matt Damon, who first showed up in last season’s finale. And how bizarre and hilarious is Will Forte as Jenna’s Cher/Jenna impersonating boyfriend. Greatness.
    • The Office – This show is past its prime, but as long as it still makes me laugh, I’ll keep watching. Honestly, Michael Scott isn’t the funniest thing about it, but he may be the glue that holds the supporting cast together. But really, shouldn’t the show just end when Steve Carrell leaves?
  • Friday
    • Supernatural – I haven’t watched this show in new episodes on tv since season two. Now it’s entering it’s sixth season, and after catching up with seasons three through five on dvd and summer reruns, I’m ready to jump back in. I’ll enjoy being able to enjoy reading about the show online without fear of spoilers – it has quite an avid fan base!
  • Saturday

    • Nothing interesting comes on Saturday nights!

So there you have it. I am watching fewer shows this season than I have in a long time – especially since there are no shows waiting in the wings, like Lost, 24, and Battlestar Galactica in recent years. There are eight shows on my list, but since four of them are half hour comedies, I don’t feel like I’m investing a lot of time in tv this fall. What will you be watching? Is my list missing anything that’s must-see for you?

 

SYTYCD Season 7: Thoughts on the First Few Weeks July 2, 2010

For the past four seasons of So You Think You Can Dance, I have enthusiastically blogged about the show. But after what I saw as poor treatment of season six and its contestants by the producers (a rushed finale, no tour, etc.), I was questioning whether or not I would even tune in for future seasons. Then came the news that they were mixing up the format, by pairing up new contestants with beloved SYTYCD all-stars every week. My interest was piqued. And then I was totally sold on the idea when I heard that Russian ballroom dancer Pasha would be one of the all-stars. Pasha is just one of those people who I must watch if he shows up on tv.

I’ve heard mixed opinions of this new format since the top 11 performance show. Yes, I miss watching chemistry develop between some of the dance partners, and rooting for pairs. Yes, some of the performances are awkward because, for example, you have someone who has never danced ballroom trying to keep up with the sensational Anya. And yes, the first week I was so excited about seeing my favorite former contestants that I didn’t pay a bit of attention to the new folks, who this season is supposed to be all about.

The producers must have listened to internet chatter or held some focus groups, because during the Top 10 and Top 9 weeks, they have made some changes to improve the show. The best change is that they started having the all-star stand with his/her new contestant partner during the judges’ comments. It was just wrong and awkward that first week when the all-stars were shuffled off stage immediately after finishing their performance. This new format of all-star/new contestant pairs works best when the choreographers play to the new dancers’ strengths. Alex Wong has been the best example of this so far, in his contemporary routine during the top 11 week, and during his sensational hip hop duet with Twitch this week. This week in particular, Tabitha and Napoleon threw in some creative ballet touches that somehow added humor and strength to the routine. Other times the new format fails miserably, as when Kent was paired with Anya for ballroom, or when Billy Bell cheesed his way through a krump routine with Comfort.

It is definitely taking me longer to pick clear favorites, because I still find myself drawn more to the all-stars during the performances. Let’s take a look at the Top Nine dancers:

  • Adechike Torbert – I am always partial to strong, masculine male dancers, so I love Adechike. I love watching him dance because he combines strength and gracefulness in an almost magical way. He has so much control, yet sometimes it seems like he’s floating through the air. His serious demeanor doesn’t both me – I loved his contemporary dance with Allison last week even though the judges complained that he wasn’t dancing with his heart. But still, it was nice to see him loosen up this week during his hip hop with Lauren.
  • Alex Wong – The judges are getting a bit annoying with their treatment of Alex as a dance god. I thought they were way over the top with their praise of his routine with Allison, but that their raving about his hip hop routine was pretty accurate. (Although, Tabitha and Napoleon should receive a lot of credit for coming up with the fantastic choreography.) There’s no denying that Alex is already a highly trained professional, but it is clear that he is very passionate about branching out into areas outside of ballet, making himself a more versatile dancer, and proving that he deserves to be on the show. He’s in a similar position to season three’s Danny, in that he is so much more talented than the other contestants. But somehow he hasn’t been pegged by the judges as arrogant like Danny was.
  • Ashley Galvan – Ashley was barely a blip on my radar until she blew me away this week with her beautiful contemporary routine with Ade. Granted, Ade was a big part of why the performance was so impressive, but it was obvious that Ashley was fully invested in the dance, and that she gave it all she had. Her technique was flawless, and her stage presence was moving. She’s not my favorite contestant personality wise, but if she keeps dancing like that, she may become a favorite.
  • Billy Bell – All the hype about how a-MAY-zing Billy Bell is got annoying to me as far back as last season, when he had to drop out due to illness. So I haven’t really jumped on the Billy Bell bandwagon this season. Sure, he’s a great dancer, but he seems to have trouble connecting with the audience. I don’t see him being a fan favorite.
  • Jose Ruiz – I am still a little confused about why Jose ended up in the top ten. He’s not as talented a b-boy as some in the past (anyone would have trouble following Legacy), and he seems really goofy to me. Last week’s bollywood and this week’s ballroom were pretty awful, but the judges have an inexplicable soft spot for him. Rather than critique how wrong some of his performances are, they praise him for being entertaining. They aren’t holding him to the same standards as the other contestants. I wouldn’t be disappointed to see him go home soon.
  • Kent Boyd – Before the competition began, Kent was my favorite of the guys. But since then, the producers’ portrayal of him as a naive small town farm boy, a country boy come to the big city, has been driven into the ground so much that I am over him for the moment. He really does have a “deer caught in the headlights” look about him (as Mia pointed out) that is distracting during his performances. He’s a cute, likable guy, but I am ready to see him invest more in his performances, and show some more genuine personality during his dancing. At the moment, he’s kind of a male version of former contestant Molly, and she was never one of my favorites.
  • Lauren Froderman – Lauren was my favorite female contestant coming into the top 11 performance show. She hasn’t quite lived up to my expectations, based on her great solo during the final round of Vegas week. I loved her personality and interesting choreography! Hopefully she’ll be around long enough to show more of her strengths.
  • Melinda Sullivan – Much like Channing was last season, Melinda has been a disappointment. I love her look and personality, but she seems very disconnected and/or uncomfortable during her performances. The judges praised her last week for her mother nature performance with Ade, but I didn’t think she had to do very much, or that she did it very well. And she seemed very unsure of herself dancing with Pasha this week. I am watching the results show as I write this, and I’m not surprised that the judges sent her home. I think it was a mistake for her to reveal that she has already done modeling and acting, since that makes her come across more as someone looking for fame, rather than someone focusing on her passion for dance.
  • Robert Roldan – Maybe if the show had introduced us to Robert during the audition and Vegas rounds I would feel some connection to him, but maybe not. I haven’t been particularly impressed by any of his performances.

Alexie and Cristina, the first two dancers sent home, hadn’t made an impression on me, so I had no positive or negative reactions to their eliminations. At this point, I guess my favorites are Adechike, Alex, and Lauren, but they are still being overshadowed by the all-stars.

The All-Stars – Here’s a run-down of the former contestants who are entertaining us again this season

  • Ade – Season 5 – Melissa and Ade were probably my favorite couple during Season 5, so I’ve loved seeing him on stage again. He’s been a great partner for all the newbies.
  • Allison – Season 2 – I didn’t start watching the show until season 3, so I knew nothing of Allison before this season. She’s fantastic! I don’t know how good any of the other early season contestants were, but I am glad she accepted the invitation to return.
  • Anya – Season 3 – Anya never quite clicked in other styles when she was a season 3 competitor, but she burns up the stage doing ballroom. It’s so fun to watch her at work.
  • Comfort – Season 4 – Comfort wasn’t my favorite during season 4, but it’s nice to have a female hip hopper among the all stars.
  • Courtney – Season 4 – Courtney is at her best when she’s dancing a Sonya Tayeh routine. Their styles and personality somehow mesh well.
  • Dominic – Season 3 – I feel like we haven’t seen much of him yet, but it’s nice to have yet another season 3 contestant return, since that was my favorite season.
  • Kathryn – Season 6 – Kathryn was overshadowed by fellow season six finalists Russell and Jakob, but she deserves her due as a great and beautiful dancer, so I’m glad she is on the show this season.
  • Lauren – Season 3 – Still a bit cheesy, but still nice to see her.
  • Mark – Season 4 – Always nice to see quirky Mark, and it looks like he’s been working out! 😉
  • Neil – Season 3 – Neil was the king of cheese during season 3, and he still has it, although toned down a bit.
  • Pasha – Season 3 – My favorite contestant ever! So glad to see him again.
  • Twitch – Season 4 – Always a fun personality and stage presence

My Favorite Performances So Far

  • Group Hip Hop (Jose, Twitch, Comfort, Dominic) – This funky number from the “Meet the Top 11” episode reminded me how talented some of the former hip hop contestants are. Jose held his own pretty well, but the other guys were special to watch.
  • Group Ballroom (Pasha, Anya, Cristina) – This “Meet the Top 11” performance was all about Pasha, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was so nice to see Pasha and Anya together on stage again. Cristina was barely noticeable, I’m sad to say.
  • Adechike and Allison’s Contemporary – I totally disagreed with the judges on this Top 10 Week performance. All they did was complained about Adechike’s lack of heart and his robotic movements. I thought it was a beautiful dance by both partners, and helped put Adechike at the top of my list of favorites.
  • Pasha and Cristina’s Paso Doble – This Top 10 Week performance apparently didn’t impress very many people, since it only succeeded in sending Cristina home. But for me it was another chance to see Pasha in his element, and I thought Cristina did a decent job, too. In fact, I picked up the phone and voted for her!
  • Mark and Ashley’s Contemporary – This Top 10 Week performance to an Annie Lennox song was very well done, but at the time I mostly paid attention to Mark, with little regard for Ashley. In watching it again now, I see that she also did a great job.
  • Ade and Ashley’s Contemporary – I loved this Top 11 performance, with Ade taking on the role of Ashley’s backbone. She was perfect in her role, too, and for the first time I really noticed her.
  • Twitch and Alex’s Hip Hop – I think Nigel is right that Tabitha and Napoleon will be nominated for a an Emmy for this psychiatrist/patient routine, which perfectly meshed Alex and Twitch’s strengths, and also really brought out Alex’s personality. I have watched it 4 or 5 times now, and it is still really that entertaining. I hope we’ll see more guy partner routines, since there are only two girls left now.

So there you have it. I fell behind on my reviews of this season’s episodes, but now I’m all caught up. What have you thought of this season so far? Who are your favorites?

 

Lost 6.3: What Kate Does February 10, 2010

Filed under: Lost,Television — Emily @ 2:46 pm
Tags: ,

Now that we know the lay of the season six land – with everyone back in modern times on the island and running into each other in a parallel universe – this week’s episode was easier to follow, and still gave us some new developments to chew on. The flash-sideways gave us eerily familiar sisterhood moments between Kate and Claire, while the island story focused on Jack and the gang as they tried to to make sense of life at the Temple, and on Sawyer as he dealt with his grief over Juliet’s death.

Flash-Sideways

  • We picked up where we left off last week, with Kate eluding the U.S. marshall and commandeering a taxi cab that Claire happened to be riding in.
  • At first, I thought it was crazy that Claire would accept a ride from an escaped convict who had just held her at gunpoint! But I suppose someone all alone in a foreign country, going through such a traumatic circumstance as a failed adoption, would cling to the one person they had kind of gotten to know.
  • Claire trusted Kate enough to ask her to go inside with her when she met the prospective adoptive parents, and when she started having contractions, Kate gave her a ride to the hospital and stayed with her while the staff figured out what was going on with the baby.
  • Again, someone desperate to escape authorities would probably not take the time to be a good samaritan – they would be getting as far from L.A. as they could! Besides, would Kate trust Claire so much that she would stick around, when at any moment Claire could tell someone that Kate was a wanted woman? But we aren’t supposed to ask these questions. After all, it’s fate that Kate and Claire meet and bond over baby Aaron.
  • Similarities to the original timeline of events: Kate was with Claire when she went into labor, and Ethan was Claire’s doctor! I wonder if he was sent from the island in this parallel universe. One more I noticed was the stuffed killer whale in Claire’s purse – wasn’t that a gift that Jin was delivering to a new mom in one episode?

Jack vs. the Pill

  • In a disturbing turn of events, Dogen forced Sayid to endure a series of torture methods, without the usual interrogation for information. It turns out this wasn’t so much torture as it was a test to see if Sayid was infected. I’m not sure how they could tell that he was infected with “the darkness.” Wouldn’t anyone being burned or shocked react with similar screams and pleads to stop?
  • Whatever the case, this “test” led Dogen to believe that there was no hope for Sayid, and so he tried to trick Jack into killing him with poison, in the form of a pill that he said was medicine. Thankfully, Jack had enough sense to protect his friend by forcing Dogen to tell the truth about the pill. (He knew that Dogen wanted him alive, and so he swallowed the pill, knowing that if it was dangerous, Dogen would try to stop him.)
  • So now what? I don’t know. Obviously, Jack isn’t going to force Sayid to take a pill that he knows will kill him. But the Others are another story. I doubt they are just going to let Sayid hang around their camp, so will they banish him or keep trying to kill him?
  • On the other hand, I have a feeling that Dogen is manipulating Jack just like Ben used to do. Maybe he never intended to kill Sayid. Maybe he’s just trying to get Jack and the other non-Others to trust him.

Sawyer Goes Solo

  • Sawyer decided not to stick around the Temple, and instead went back to the place where he had made a happy home with Juliet: Dharma village. It’s now nothing more than a ramshackle mess, but he found what he was looking for: a memory box containing the engagement ring he was planning to give her.
  • Once again, Josh Holloway did an excellent job conveying Sawyer’s despair and deep pain. I nearly had a complete breakdown watching him look through their old home, and hearing him talk about how he blamed himself for her death because he convinced her to stay on the island. I was sad when he threw the ring out into the water, too.
  • Talk about awkward when Kate showed up right as Sawyer was having a nostalgic moment. At least she tried to sneak away, but of course he heard her at that point. After Sawyer opened up to her about his feelings, I couldn’t exactly figure out why Kate was crying. Was it because Sawyer rejected her, like did she think she was going to go play house with him and pick up where they left off? Or, was she genuinely sad for Sawyer because she cares about him? Maybe a little of both?

Claire's return was marked by a very bad hair day.

The Infection

  • This exchange between Dogen and Jack gave us the latest twist in the Lost saga: Dogen – “We believe he [Sayid] has been claimed… There is a darkness growing in him, and once it reaches his heart, everything your friend once was will be gone.” Jack – “How can you be sure of that?” Dogen – “Because it happened to your sister.” And with those words, we found out what happened to Claire when she wandered off into the jungle – kind of. We still don’t know how she became infected, but we know that she’s not herself anymore, at least according to Dogen.
  • Claire’s return was the most interesting development in this episode. Appearing on a ridge above Jin and rescuing him from the Others who were about to shoot him, she made quite an entrance! She’s like a Rousseau, Jr., setting traps and gunning people down. She could have been straight out of Deliverance – she was looking rough and crazy.
  • I am guessing that Rousseau was “infected” with the same darkness that the Others’ leader says Sayid now has, and that he says consumed Claire. Is this the same disease that Rousseau went on and on about? I assume it has something to do with Evil Locke and his Black Smoke.
  • This new development of the Darkness Infection brings many new questions to the table: How does one become infected? Is there a cure (other than swallowing a lethal pill…)? Are the infected doomed to become part of not-Locke’s army? Or does the infection simply make them ineligible for Jacob’s lists of the worthy?

So they writers are making us do the waiting thing that we had to do in other seasons, where we didn’t see not Locke and Frank and Sun, etc. at all this week. I really want to know Richard’s story! Hopefully we will see that group next week. Since Sawyer was featured a lot in the preview, I hope we’ll see what his parallel world persona is up to. Maybe he’ll run into Juliet!

Random Questions

  • What was with the dirty baseball that Dogen had in his office? That doesn’t really seem like something that a wise medicine man would have sitting around. – I just found a possible answer on Lostpedia: “In the TV series Deep Space 9, Benjamin Sisko, the commander of the station, used to have a baseball prominently placed on his desk throughout the entire run of the show. In the pilot episode, he used the baseball as a metaphor to explain the nature of linear time to the inhabitants of the wormhole, who experienced time all at once.”
  • Who is Claire protecting herself from, or is she just crazy?
  • Are Miles and Hurley ever going to have anything more to do than make jokes about food courts and white lights? They need some more dead people to talk to.
 

Lost 6.1: LA X February 3, 2010

Filed under: Lost,Television — Emily @ 4:35 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Lost is back, and I couldn’t be more excited. Even just watching the one hour recap show reminded me how much I’ve missed the Island and all its inhabitants. There’s nothing else like it on television. There’s a lot of ground to cover from last night’s two-part season premiere. I’ll start with an assessment of the three main plot threads, and then move on to my theories, questions, rants, and raves.

Season six opened with Jack sitting on Oceanic 815 - only this time it didn't crash on the island!

Same Song, Different Lyrics

  • It was fascinating to see the parallel world created as a result of the bomb (if the bomb was, in fact, responsible).
    • The few seconds that the screen was white at the beginning drove me crazy! After so many months of waiting, those few seconds of waiting to see what happened were very intense.
    • What was with the cut on Jack’s neck? Was that just to indicate that he had recently shaved off his beard, or is it some hint about something else?
    • What was Desmond doing on the plane? And where did he disappear to when Jack returned from saving Charlie? Weirdness all around. If nothing else, those two incidents were like a repeat of history in the original timeline, only in a different location: Jack saved Charlie after Ethan left him for dead, and Desmond had a habit of popping up in unexpected places.
    • How creepy was it to see the island, the Dharma village, and the giant foot under water, in ruins? That was our confirmation that Juliet succeeded in setting off the bomb, destroying the island, and changing the course of history.
    • The cameos of dearly departed Losties were fun: Artz, Charlie, Neil, Boone… I wonder if Mr. Eko, Ana Lucia, Libby, and Shannon were missing for a particular reason, or simply because they weren’t available at the time of filming.
    • Apparently in this reality, Hurley is “the luckiest guy alive.” Winning the lottery was a blessing, not a curse. I wonder if he used the same numbers?
    • A few things that happened in this parallel reality were like echoes of previous events. After Jack saved Charlie, Charlie told him, “You shouldn’t have let that happen, man. I was supposed to die.” Just like he was supposed to die (and did) on the Island, despite all Desmond’s efforts to save him… Another echo was how Dr. Shepherd’s body disappeared. In this case, it was apparently never put on the plane, while on the Island, the coffin and the body were separated from the other wreckage.
    • It was interesting to see the Losties in this parallel universe pick up where we’d left them in their original flashbacks: Jack dealing with his father’s death, Kate still trying to escape from custody, Sawyer looking for his next con, Sun and Jin trying to keep up appearances, Rose and Bernard enjoying life together, Sayid hoping to reunite with Nadia, Charlie struggling with drug addiction, Hurley figuring out what to do with his lottery winnings, Boone dealing with his bratty sister Shannon, and Locke trying to maintain his dignity despite his paralysis. But fate seems to be interfering with the “natural” course of events, since all these characters are crossing paths: Sawyer helped Kate elude the security officers, Jack and Locke struck up a conversation about how “nothing is irreversible,” Desmond and Jack literally saw each other “in another life,” which are the words they parted with when they first met while running stairs in L.A.

Back in the Saddle Again (aka How Jack’s Plan Led Them Back to Where They Started)

  • But the premiere wasn’t as straight forward as “now the Losties are on a different path, one on which they never came to the Island.” Instead, after the first commercial break, the writers threw us for a loop, showing Jack and the gang still very much alive on the island, but apparently back in the present rather than still stuck in the 70s.
    • Hurley’s ability to talk to dead people came in handy, as Jacob delivered that message that Hurley needed to take Sayid to the Temple in order to save him from certain death. I wonder if Jacob will continue to communicate with the Losties via Hurley.
    • Juliet’s death was hard to watch, but at least she and Sawyer had a better goodbye than the heart-wrenching one when she let go of his hand last season. Josh Holloway got to show off his acting skills, as Sawyer agonized over Juliet’s fate, and said his tearful “I love you’s” and “goodbyes” to her.
    • Juliet’s final words were perplexing: “We should get coffee some time. We can go dutch.” Just the incoherent ramblings of a woman near-death, or something else – perhaps she was slipping away to the parallel reality where she and Sawyer weren’t on the Island, where their plan to change the course of events had worked. We have reason to suspect this, based on her next words being “I have to tell you something. It’s really, really important,” and based on Miles’ message from Juliet’s spirit that “it worked.” Regardless of the answers to these questions, Juliet’s death was one of the most memorable on the show.

The confrontation between Richard and Not-Locke was one of the most perplexing and disturbing moments of the premiere.

A Tale of Two Lockes (aka On the Waterfront)

  • The events on the beach in the present didn’t seem to be affected at all by Juliet’s efforts. But that didn’t make them any less interesting.
    • It was fascinating to watch Ben’s rollercoaster of emotions: he went from horrified that he actually murdered Jacob, to disturbed when he saw the real Locke’s dead body, to full freak-out mode after he realized that not-Locke is the one and only Smoke Monster. The master manipulator couldn’t believe that he had been outmanipulated, and he was clearly nervous about just what sort of creature he helped unleash on the Island.
    • Not-Locke is turning out to be a fantastic villain. He’s so calm, collected, and matter of fact: “I have good news. Jacob burned up in that fire. You have nothing more to protect…” Plus, he’s practically invincible – speeding bullets bounce off of him, and he can turn into his destructive smoke form to become a thoroughly efficient warrior. The only defense against him is encircling yourself with ashes.
    • I was hoping his conversation with Ben at the end of the episode would at least reveal his name, but it didn’t happen. Instead, not-Locke tormented Ben, telling him that Locke was very confused as he died, thinking only “I don’t understand.” His description of Locke was spot-on, and thus sad, especially in light of his tragic death, which allowed this Monster to rise to power. And we were left with yet another intriguing question: not-Locke wants the one thing that John Locke didn’t: “I want to go home.” Where is home for this Smoke Monster?!
    • The closing scene had Richard reuniting with an old acquaintance (not-Locke said “Hello, Richard, it’s good to see you out of those chains.”) I for one am ready to know Richard’s backstory. The “chains” part still makes me think he came to the Island on the Black Rock. Not-Locke quickly and easily knocked Richard out and carried him away, scolding the rest of the beach Others with a stern “I’m very disappointed in you!” What is going on?!

Hugo Reyes and the Temple of Doom (or Hope?)

  • The Temple – In typical Lost fashion, we met yet another group of island inhabitants that we hadn’t seen before. Actually, I guess these are just more Others, but we’ve never seen these particular ones, except for the flight attendant and the two kids (Zack and Emma) that were taken from Ana Lucia’s group. I wonder if the Temple will be this season’s Hatch, pivotal to the ongoing plot. It is appropriately mysterious, and the passageways beneath it are creepy, with all the whispering and crumbling ruins.
    • Jacob instructed Hurley to take the guitar case and its contents to the Temple. It contained a wooden cross of sorts, which in turn contained a piece of paper. I assume it was a list that included the names of Jack, Hurley, Kate, Jin, Sayid, Sawyer, and Miles, but one of the Others told Hurley it said “If your friend there dies, we’re all in a lot of trouble.” Perhaps if Jacob wrote all their names on the list, that means all of them must survive in order for some plan to work.
    • The Temple contains a healing pool known as “The Spring.” Apparently a dying person has to be held underwater for a certain amount of time (determined by the sands in an hourglass), and has a chance of being healed. Initially, the Others thought it hadn’t worked, but they were acting very strangely. By the end of the episode, after lying still and not breathing for several minutes, Sayid suddenly sat up and said “What happened?” So did the spring save him, or something else? We don’t have a clear answer yet.
    • “I don’t like the way English tastes on my tongue.” The apparent leader of this group of Others used a translator, but he does speak English. When Hurley informed him that Jacob was dead, the Others sprang into action, setting off a flare, and securing the Temple “to keep him out.” They must know what they are up against.
    • I’m also curious why the Others wanted to talk to each Lostie individually. They are a very mysterious bunch.
  • At the end of the episode, Sayid rose from the dead, or so it seems. Not sure what to make of this yet.

The Implications

  • Not-Locke is the Smoke Monster – Upon confirmation that the Smoke Monster can appear as people who have died, Lost fanatics everywhere rushed to their archives last night to study all the scenes from previous seasons involving dead people appearing to the islanders: Christian Shepherd “advising” various people, Mr. Eko’s brother, Shannon, Claire, etc. Can we assume that all these visitations were actually the Smoke Monster, and that they were all part of its plan to find a loophole? One of the more recent occurrences is when Christian guided Locke through the subterranean passageways and told him he had to move the island again to stop the time flashes. A lot to think about here… Another visit that comes to mind is Claire’s appearance to Kate in L.A., when she warned Kate not to take Aaron back to the island. If that Claire was actually the Smoke Monster, then it would seem that Aaron’s return to the Island would be a good thing for the Losties. But can the Smoke Monster appear off the Island, and is Claire even dead?
  • Jacob Leads the Losties to the Temple – Apparently all hope is not lost just yet. If that spring can bring Sayid back to life, then maybe the Others and the Temple have some more tricks up their sleeves.
  • Flash-somethings – In the early seasons we had flashbacks, and then last season we had flashbacks, flashforwards, and some flashes that were hard to label as either one. Apparently, this season we will have inter-reality flashes. (Producers Cuse and Lindelof refer to them as “sideways flashes” in this interview.) Whether it’s a parallel universe, a simultaneous reality, or whatever you want to call it, there seem to be two Jacks, two Kates, two of everyone. It’s hard to wrap my mind around it all, but I can’t wait to see where we are headed. This new storytelling device leads to all sorts of questions, but one big one is this: will these two worlds somehow converge, and if so, what will the results be?
  • Not of this World? – Where is “home” for the Smoke Monster, and will his/its name ever be revealed? The only “out there” theory I am considering right now is that the Island is alien in origin. Remember that “Little Prince” episode early last season? Check out this excerpt, in which I theorized about what it would mean if Locke were the Little Prince in question (the text in blue seems especially relevant now that we know the whole Not-Locke angle): 
    • Locke – At the end of The Little Prince, the Little Prince tells the Narrator that he must return to his home planet, and explains to him that “while it will look as though he has died, he has not, but rather that his body is too heavy to take with him to his planet” (I gathered this info from Wikipedia, since it has been years since I read this novel and I’m foggy on the details.) This reminds me of Locke, who has to die in order to make everything right again. Will Locke be reincarnated in a different body, or has his body been left behind while he’s actually still doing the Island’s work? One famous quote from The Little Prince sounds exactly like something that Locke would say: “One cannot see well except with the heart, the essential is invisible to the eyes.”
    • Just some food for thought… You can check out that full post here.

I could go on and on with my questions, but I’ll save some for the rest of the season, as we learn more. My favorite characters in the premiere were Sawyer (dramatic flair) and Hurley (comic relief). What did you think of the premiere? What questions are you dying to have answered? Any theories to share? To read more about the episode, check out the following: