Friday, July 11, 2008

Scott Bakula: One of TNT's 'Men of a Certain Age'

Posted By on Fri, Jul 11, 2008 at 8:43 PM


TNT announced today that everyone's favorite Quantum Leaper and Minor Leaguer, Scott Bakula, has joined the cast of the upcoming drama "Men of a Certain Age," which sounds suspiciously like a male version of "thirtysomething" with an extra decade thrown in. (Maybe that's because the pilot episode's director, two-time Emmy winner Scott Winant, includes among his credits "thirtysomething.")

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The Teen Titans vs. The Breakfast Club

Posted By on Fri, Jul 11, 2008 at 3:40 PM


In anticipation of next week's big-screen release of the Batman epic film The Dark Knight, July 8 saw the direct-to-DVD issue of Batman: Gotham Knight (reviewed here), a moody, inventive anthology film with Japanese anime filmmakers presenting their interpretations of the Caped Crusader. The same day also saw the release of another DC Comics video adaptation with a distinct anime flavor: Teen Titans: The Complete Fifth Season.

Airing on Atlanta's Cartoon Network from 2003-2006, "Teen Titans" featured a theme song by perky Japanese twosome Puffy Ami Yumi and a peculiar but effective blend of serious, arcing episodes and zany comic relief. Funny scenes would draw on manga-style caricature: throbbing veins would appear on angry characters' heads, hearts would bubble up for lovesick ones, and even odder exaggerations would appear that gave the show's humor a fresh, funny attitude. The show's fifth and final season is my favorite, as it pits the Teen Titans against an iconic supervillian team called The Brotherhood of Evil; pop references come even more quickly (including nods to Doctor Who's Daleks and The Incredibles). Plus, it reinforces my theory that the show's creators patterned the five Titans after the main characters of John Hughes' beloved 1980s film, The Breakfast Club.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"Battlestar Galactica" climbing stairway to heaven?

Posted By on Tue, Jun 24, 2008 at 10:09 PM


I stayed up past my bedtime last night getting caught up on “Battlestar Galactica” episodes on Hulu. “BSG” isn’t as easy to watch on-line as, say “Lost,” which has the full library of its episodes available on demand on the ABC website, with the new ones going up the day after broadcast. Hulu posts the new “BSGs” eight days after air date, and takes them down about three weeks later, so if you snooze, you lose.

“Battlestar Galactica” recently aired its “mid-season” finale for its fourth and final season. The terminology’s a little confusing, but what happened was, the show produced 10 fourth season episodes before the writer’s strike, and just finished broadcasting them. The remaining 10 episodes have apparently been filmed, but Sci Fi may not complete the show’s run until 2009.

The last episode ended with the kind of jaw-dropping, how-will-they-deal-with-THAT twist that’s the show’s speciality, but overall the fourth season has been a head-scratcher. The most critically respected of any space opera TV series, the reboot of the 1970s Star Wars knock-off won over skeptics with its fusion of sci-fi conventions (space ships, killer robots) and sociopolitical themes drawn right from the post-9/11 zeitgeist (abuse of authority, torture, terrorism, paranoia, etc.) A certain amount of spirituality also informed the show, driving the human characters’ quixotic search for the mythic planet “Earth." The fourth season's promotional cast photo, shown above, even riffs on "The Last Supper," and this year the mystical mumbo-jumbo has superceded the political allegories.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Pink-letter dates: Leslie Jordan, out and about in Atlanta

Posted By on Fri, Jun 20, 2008 at 5:55 PM


Emmy-winning actor and favorite Atlantan Leslie Jordan is going to be all over Atlanta this weekend and beyond, all in honor of the recent release of his memoir, My Trip Down the Pink Carpet. The former "Will and Grace" guest performer is one of those guys who's just funny once he opens his mouth; I firmly believe that he could read the mayor's budget-cut proposals and get a laugh. (His 2006 interview with Curt Holman proves as much.)

Jordan will be plenty busy over the next few days, starting Saturday with a book-release appearance at Outwrite Books. The reading/signing starts at 7:30 p.m.; admission is free. He follows that up with a two-night stand at the 14th Street Playhouse with his one-man show of the same name, Sunday and Monday at 8 p.m.

Unfortunately, the status of the sitcom "12 Miles of Bad Road" (in which he co-stars) seems hopelessly up in the air, according to this article in the San Francisco Chronicle. Anyone know anything different? Perhaps Leslie will enlighten us, in a way only he can, as he shows in this clip taken during his recent Stonewall Columbus fundraiser.

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'This Is Atlanta': Award-winning screen time

Posted By on Fri, Jun 20, 2008 at 4:15 PM


Here's a fond PopSmart wish of good luck to the folks at PBA30's "This Is Atlanta," which is up for a Southeast Emmy this Saturday for Best Magazine Program under the umbrella category Outstanding Achievement: Television Programming Excellence for its segment, "The Atlanta Downhill Challenge," about the city's popular soapbox derby race. (Oddly enough, the program is up against two episodes of "TBS Storyline," which was canned when Turner changed TBS to last year Peachtree TV. Unfortunate, considering Peachtree TV's "hyper-local" mission statement.)

We mentioned the Telly Award-winning program in one of our first PopSmart blog posts back in November, so we're excited to see what happens on Saturday. Jack Walsh and Gordon Ray are the nominated producers of the show, and do an impressive job of providing witty polish to a type of community program that, when not in the right hands, can run on the dull side. This stuff is compelling work, though, reminding Atlantans just how diverse its city really is.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Message to the media on Tim Russert's death: Get over it

Posted By on Tue, Jun 17, 2008 at 7:46 PM

As tactless and morbid as it might sound, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who in just a couple days grew weary (and a bit wary) of the media, ahem, overkill coverage of Tim Russert's death. But here comes Slate's Jack Shafer, doing the dirty work and calling out the media (print and electronic) for its incessant coverage of Russert's untimely passing last Friday due to a heart attack. Here's Shafer's most astute observation …

I wonder whether the media grievers gave a moment of thought to how this Russert torrent they produced played with viewers and readers. Did the grievers really think Russert was so important, so vital to the nation's course, and such an elevated human being that he deserved hour upon hour of tribute?

There's also nice pulled quotes from the New York Times' Mike Liebovich's remembrance, which fairly and objectively points out some of Russert's possible flaws, including my favorite: "Mr. Russert liked to seem sheepishly above-it-all, but was also as acutely status-conscious, befitting the local water."

What irked me most about Russert was what felt like more than a newsman's obsession with politics as gamesmanship (a flaw he shared with another former political operative, George Stephanopoulos). His Red State/Blue State carping during the 2002 mid-term elections practically helped make the terms mainstream, which is a shame considering how that kind of jargon has dumbed us all down.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

"Spectacular" series out-webs Spider-man 3

Posted By on Fri, Jun 13, 2008 at 10:29 PM

The Spectacular Spider-Man,” CW Kids’ animated series about the web-slinging superhero, ends its first season this weekend. In some ways, the kid-friendly cartoon improves on Spider-man 3, the most recent, megahit treatment of the character for the big screen.

Let me rephrase that. “The Spectacular Spider-Man” (airing at 10 a.m. Sundays in Atlanta) improves on Spider-man 3 in one way. The show might not look very promising at first: its animation has a sketchy, rudimentary look, with an anime-influence that gives the characters hilariously oversized eyes. As a kid-friendly show, it makes for safe viewing with kindergartners while blunting some of its potential edge.

However, “The Spectacular Spider-Man” unexpectedly takes advantage of a popular trend in TV shows: the drawn-out, arcing narrative. While the old 1960s “Spider-man” cartoons sometimes felt like a stretch at less than 15 minutes, “Spectacular” confidently lets subplots and character relationships build over time. Peter Parker’s relationships move gradually through highs and lows, while evil masterminds engineer outlandish villains to stop him every episodes. Over time, you notice that the writing holds up better than you’d expect.


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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hulk pens love letter to Bill and Lou

Posted By on Thu, Jun 12, 2008 at 4:15 PM

The Incredible Hulk opens Friday, and you may have heard that it's far more fast-paced and action-oriented than Ang Lee's intellectually ambitious but sluggish, overthought 2003 treatment of the raging green giant. In 2004 The Onion tweaked the film's lack of popularity with a faux Op-Ed from the Hulk himself, "Why No One Want Make Hulk 2?"

In fact, Marvel Studios (the movie-making division of the venerable comic book company) showed remarkable confidence in the Hulk as a potential screen star (not to mention faith in Transporter 2 director Louis Leterrier as a filmmaker) by buying back the rights to the character and essentially making the film "in-house," much like it did with Marvel's other superhero movie of this summer, Iron Man. So far, Marvel's two-for-two in making films, although Iron Man has more across-the-board appeal, while The Incredible Hulk will please action fans and followers of the comic book.

The surprising thing about the film, however, is that it's such a love letter to "The Incredible Hulk," the 1978-1982 TV series that starred Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. Here's the opening credits, including that famous catch-phrase:

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Monday, June 9, 2008

"Top Chef" races to the finish line on Wednesday

Posted By on Mon, Jun 9, 2008 at 3:23 PM

For years, I’ve studiously avoided “Top Chef,” Bravo’s reality chef-competition show — which is unusual for me considering my near obsession with practically all things Bravo reality-TV programming. (And in my defense, I do believe the best of the crop, “Project Runway,” is a multi-Emmy nominee, no?)

But “Top Chef” eluded me for years mainly on the argument that there was really no way for me to “judge” whether or not the resultant work was any good. And so, generally speaking, it all came down to the drama, and even during those unavoidable Bravo marathon screenings of the series — helpful at times, annoying the other 90 percent of the time — I just couldn’t get on board. Until now.

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Friday, June 6, 2008

Whither Adam Sandler?

Posted By on Fri, Jun 6, 2008 at 9:47 PM


So where is everyone with Adam Sandler? As we head into the weekend and what feels like the zillionth vehicle, You Don't Mess With the Zohan, I'm at a complete loss as to whether to consider Sandler a legitimate comedic talent of his generation. It's been long enough since his departure from his mugging days on "Saturday Night Live," and he now has what we haughtily refer to as a "body of work" to start wondering where he belongs in the grand scheme of things. Will Zohan be the decider? I guess we'll literally have to see.

While the film is checking in at a woeful 35 percent on the old Tomato-meter on Rotten Tomatoes, further research reveals a more divided camp — especially when you start reading the more smarty-pants reviewers. The decided majority opinion falls in with those like the Globe and Mail's Rick Groen, who writes:

Mess with The Zohan if you like, but be prepared for the consequences. This picture is to comedy what carpet bombing is to aerial warfare: The onslaught is so relentless that occasional direct hits on the funny bone are a statistical guarantee. As for any lingering wounds suffered by the more cerebral parts of the anatomy, chalk them up to collateral damage and consider it the price of laughter, Adam Sandler style.

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