Thursday, September 30, 2010

TBG TV: Mike & Molly

When/Where: CBS – Mondays at 9:30 PM

10-Word Premise: Shockingly, the fat guy's sitcom love interest
isn't 110 lbs.

Starring: Stand-up comedian Billy Gardell as the unrealistically obese beat cop – continuing a television tradition that includes
Clancy Wiggum from The Simpsons, House from Police Academy – The Series and, of course, the late Big Boss Man. Melissa McCarthy as the plus-size gal with a heart of gold – continuing a television tradition that includes Oprah Winfrey (1985-1987, 1991-1993, 1995, 2007-present), Cass Elliot in those two episodes of Scooby-Doo and, of course, the late Wendie Jo Sperber.

Reno Wilson (the voice of Autobot
Bojangles in the last Transformers movie) as Gardell's obligatory buddy cop/black friend. Katy Mixon as McCarthy's dim-witted, pot-smoking "perfect" sister. And, Swoosie Kurtz…who should still be entertaining America on Pushing Daisies, if YOU people hadn't ignored it and forced her into this.

The Best Thang: Gardell's "Mike" and McCarthy's "Molly" have a sweet, awkward chemistry that…works? In the premiere, Mike's pathetic attempts to ask Molly out could've been cribbed from the script of my first two years in college. There were a few clever little sight gags involving an elementary school urinal and the name of a Hall of Fame running back that made me chuckle, while the inappropriate payoff to Mike's "dad" speech in Molly's class was pretty damn funny. I'm as shocked as y'all.

The Worst Thang: This show's going to run out of fat jokes and it's going to happen sooner rather than later. Two overweight people in a stairwell ("OK, one of you has to inhale!") is just…two overweight people in a stairwell, writers. Not surprisingly, the secondary cast members were just broadly-drawn caricatures in the pilot episode.

The Verdict: The premiere episode was surprisingly entertaining. It's not exactly groundbreaking, but the throwback feel to the sitcom structure of my adolescence is actually effective. The actors are plenty likeable and if the writing can catch up, I just might stick around.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The LL Chronicles #1: 10 Thoughts on Fall Ball

Back in January, my son Jalen tried out for the "Rookies" level in our local Little League district. Here's a brief description of this level reprinted from my earlier post:

Training and development league. Emphasis on basic skills and basic game strategy. Introduction to competitive baseball. Recommended ages 6 thru 9. Machine pitch then player/coach pitches.

And, some of you might remember how Jalen's tryout went:

J had never even SEEN a pitching machine before, much less hit off one. So, he probably had two strikes against him when he did the ONE thing you never do against a pitching machine: he took the first pitch! J didn't lift the bat off his shoulder, then gawked at the catcher's mitt with a look that said, "Wait, where the hell did this ball come from?"

Even though Jalen was drafted onto a rookie level team, I opted to keep him in t-ball for one more season. Immediately after the final out in Jalen's final game, his coach made a beeline towards me and said, "Jalen's ready for the next level. He might be the most intense little boy I've ever seen."

J's coach was being exceedingly magnanimous. My son was the only player on his t-ball team who regularly abandoned his assigned position (say, for example, right field) to cut in front of his teammates, so that he could snatch groundballs and/or throws intended for a different position (let's say, first base). He yelled at his five and six-year-old teammates. He bowled over catchers. He would even stop on the basepaths – in between bases – and wait for the throw to come in, so he could justify sliding into the next base.

Looking back, I'm not sure if the words from Jalen's coach about "the next level" were encouragement or an ultimatum. Regardless, I signed my son up for "Rookies".

(1) Wait…the WHAT Team? -- Thanks to youth football and soccer, Little League Baseball's fall season pulls in just a fraction of the players who sign up for the more traditional spring season. The "Rookies" level only fields three teams. The good news: Player registration fees are 30% less expensive for the fall. The bad news: There are no Major League Baseball-licensed team names or uniforms. The blog fodder: Instead, there's a "blue" team, an "orange" team and my son's squad…the "white" team. (Don't look at me like that. You'd have thought less of me if I didn't mention this.)

(2) Laboring -- With Jalen's first game less than a week away, I took him out for an impromptu one-on-one practice on Labor Day. He'd been struggling with his first real go-round on the pitching machine, so I offered up my scrawny right arm as a reasonable facsimile. Usually, I just soft-toss the ball to Jalen and watch his comical Herculean swings. This time, though, I wanted him to be ready for the 40 mph pitches that the machine would be feeding him. Of course, replicating that kind of speed required almost maximum effort from my upper body. Now, I don't know how long we were out there or how many pitches I threw. However, in the three weeks since, whenever I've tried to throw more than 10 pitches, my elbow and forearm
feel a LOT like this.

(3) Opening Day! -- Jalen's first game was on Saturday, September 11. The fall season would be played on the "Majors" field, which meant relatively pristine grounds-keeping and a fully-functioning electronic scoreboard over the right-centerfield wall. The simplistic technology was akin to
1970s Texas Instruments, but my son – mouth agape – must've stared at that sparsely-lit black and red rectangle for over a minute. Primitive man wasn't this fascinated by the first appearance of fire.

Unfortunately, the rest of the kids were equally mystified by another piece of electronic equipment: the pitching machine. Our team scratched out a 3-1 win, but after a 3-run first inning, the pitching machine didn't give up a hit the rest of the way – included in the futility…Jalen Cameron, who went 0 for 2. After his second strikeout, my mother – who was visiting for the weekend – tried to climb down the bleachers and come into the dugout to console her grandson. Speaking from embarrassing personal experience: she's still got it.

(4) Coach Demotion -- Before the first game, I agreed to help out and coach third base. I tried the "placid dad in the stands" bit last spring, but by the end of that season, my wife and I could no longer sit together. It seems one of us couldn't stop pacing while simultaneously shouting helpful hitting AND defensive suggestions to his (or her, or her!) only son. However, after the first inning of the first game, one of our other coaches moved me to first base coach while he took over at third. As he explained, "You gotta be aggressive when you're coaching third. We should've scored four runs that inning, but you were putting up the stop sign for everybody." Wow. And, in front of the kids, coach?

(5) Jalen's Rage -- Our second game was on Saturday, September 18. Thanks to a 9:00 AM start time, the field conditions were reminiscent of the
Dagobah System. Undaunted, we slogged – and slugged – our way to a 10-6 win. Jalen went 0 for 3 with two more strikeouts and a groundout. After the game, he dramatically kicked over an ice chest. In the dugout. In the middle of the coach's congratulatory pep talk to the team. Of course, I disciplined him…while making sure not to piss him off.

(6) Officially a Slump -- On September 19, our team took the field for the second of back-to-back games over the weekend. Jalen had stopped listening to anyone's advice and was determined to end his slump by hitting the ball farther and farther into orbit. We won our third straight game, 9-4, but Jalen went 0 for 3…with three strikeouts. Mrs. Bootleg peeked into the dugout and saw him by himself, in tears, at the end of the bench. As his father, it tore my heart out to see how badly he wanted his first hit. As a blogger, I should point out that when Jalen swings and misses, he makes a hilariously exaggerated half-grunting, half-growling sound. 15 years ago, this would've
landed him a record deal.

(7) The One-Man Outfield -- At least Jalen didn't take his troubles at the plate into the field. Late in Sunday's game, he was playing right field, when the opposing hitter smacked a line drive to left. Our left fielder barely moved until the ball was by him. The centerfielder then raced over to help out, but somehow became entangled – on the ground – with the left fielder. Everyone is focused on the two-car crash in left field, so no one notices the chocolate-brown blur racing all the way over from right field. Now, Jalen could've just bent over and picked up the ball. Instead, he turns towards his two teammates and…well, here's a
surprisingly accurate re-creation.

(8) Solving the Slump -- I bought Jalen a 26-inch, 16-ounce (-10) bat earlier in the summer. It was only an inch longer and an ounce heavier than his t-ball bat, but he never looked comfortable with it. During practices, his hitting fundamentals were perfectly fine – the coaches and other fathers in attendance repeatedly praised his stroke even though he wasn't exactly stinging the ball. But, his swing looked especially slow during games. Now, I'm not naïve enough to think that a new bat can solve the old "can't hit ball" problem. But, thankfully, Jalen is! Hey, I
told you guys to stop me. This one's on you. I went a touch longer (27 inches) and MUCH lighter (14 ounces, -13 bat drop).

(9) Solving the Slump II -- Last Thursday, Mrs. Bootleg took Jalen to the local batting cages while I was at work. What started as a series of innocuous text messages from her ("We're here!" and "Jalen has his new bat!") turned into an array of increasingly…expensive texts ("Don't be mad, but I think I'm going to pay for a private lesson." and "They invited Jalen to stay for the 4 o'clock class.") After I got home, I asked Jalen what he learned. "They said, 'Keep my head down' and 'don't move my feet'." Hmmm…curiously similar to what I'd been telling him every Sunday afternoon for 2 ½ years. So glad I'm one of those black fathers who stuck around.

(10) Slump Solved -- On a 98-degree Sunday afternoon, I had a feeling Jalen would break through. I took him out on Saturday and his swing had its snap back – including a line drive that cracked off my shin. We spent another half-hour together on Sunday morning and while I wanted to share my gut feeling with Mrs. Bootleg, I superstitiously kept it to myself. Jalen came up in the second inning and beat out an infield dribbler for his first hit of the season. He then exhaled, did 50 consecutive fist pumps and flashed that endless jack-o-lantern grin of his…before accepting a high-five from a certain first base coach. Later in the game, he broke a 4-4 tie with an RBI single, giving our team a lead we'd never relinquish in a 10-8 win. Jalen struck out in his final at-bat, but the ice chests stayed upright, the tears never materialized and the head coach rewarded J's efforts after the game.

It's been more than 72 hours…and he's still grinning.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

2010 NFL Pickery -- Week #3

Last Week:

Joe: 10-6
Aaron: 8-8
Tom: 7-9


Joe: 21-11
Aaron: 17-15
Tom: 17-15

Cleveland at Baltimore

Aaron: To all the Ravens fans complaining about Baltimore's early schedule (this is the team's first home game of the season, three of their first four games (and four of their first six) are on the road): Remember that the rest of us have had to endure those Ray Lewis body wash commercials all season. Pick: Baltimore

Joe: It's wildly unlikely that Seneca Wallace is going to be the guy to break the vise grip the Ravens defense has had on opposing offenses. ("The vise grip X's defense has had on opposing offenses" can be found in the 4th edition of "Pro Football Commentary for Dummies and ESPN Employees.") Pick: Baltimore

Cincinnati at Carolina

Aaron: I can't even pass as a casual college football fan, but – like the rest of America – I'm rooting against new Carolina QB Jimmy Clausen. And, while it's easy to loathe any player who suited up for Notre Dame, I genuinely wonder how much of my hatred stems from the whole "grown man with a first name that ends in 'y'" thingie. And, also his face. Pick: Cincinnati

Joe: Wow, Cam. Rickey is so disappointed in you right now. Pick: Cincinnati

[ED. NOTE: "Rickey" ends in "-ey". Totally different from the juvenile "-y" ending, jerk. Or have you forgotten Black History Month icons Bookerey T. Washington and Special Deliverey [sic] Jones?]

Dallas at Houston

Aaron: I've never gotten into the nationwide disdain for the Dallas Cowboys. I get it, of course, but are you telling me you'd root against the Cowboys if they were playing, say, New England? What if "any team quarterbacked by Brett Favre" lined up against the Dallas D? You'd be pro-Cowboys then, right? That said…finish them, Texans. Pick: Houston

Joe: It'd be easier for me to hate the Cowboys if I didn't harbor a secret fondness for Tony Romo. Of course, I'd like nothing better than to see Wade Phillips's doughy behind cast out on his ass mid-season. But this feels like a "not so fast" moment, both for the Texans bandwagon (of which I am happily a member) and the Cowboys' funeral procession. Pick: Dallas

Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay

Aaron: Charlie Batch gets the start for the Steelers this week. With the way their defense is playing, Batch could play like…well, himself, and still get votes for "most inexplicably successful light-skinned African-American celebrity of the week". I'm rooting for you, Charlie. The 52-week reign of Drake isn't going to be easy to end. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: Expect a consistent string of ugly, close, defense-dominated games for Pittsburgh, at least until Dr. Feelgood returns at QB. ...At which point maybe the NFL might want to watch the fuck out. Pick: Pittsburgh

Tennessee at N.Y. Giants

Aaron: Was Week #1's Colts v. Texans game NOT televised in the NY/NJ area? Not even the highlights?! Houston's formula to beat Indianapolis (run the goddam ball) seemed easy enough to follow for a Giants team that is more than capable of running the goddam ball. Instead, the Giants stupidly deferred the opening kickoff, gave up a quick score and then abandoned the run after the first 45 seconds. Why, yes, I did have internet gambling action on the Giants. Why do you ask? Pick: Tennessee

Joe: Considering how much room to maneuver the Giants handed Colts RB Donald Brown last week (DONALD BROWN!), I'm not having too hard a time envisioning Chris Johnson making them look silly. Pick: Tennessee

Atlanta at New Orleans

Aaron: With Reggie Bush expected to miss the next six weeks with a broken fibula, I think it's time to ask the question: Has Bush (not) done enough to unseat former WR Keyshawn Johnson as the "WAY more overrated in fantasy football than in real-life football and he's already pretty overrated in real-life football to begin with" champion? Discuss. Pick: Atlanta

Joe: Well, Cam, your reasoning for picking Atlanta is solid (at least I assume it is, considering you eschewed any kind of analysis for a cheap shot at a crippled, Heisman-less man), but I need to opt for a few counter-measures this week. Picking the defending Super Bowl champs at home seems like a decent start. Pick: New Orleans

Buffalo at New England

Aaron: columnist Bill Simmons has been co-hosting Pardon the Interruption all week. A few days ago, he tried to articulate why Boston fans might be turning on Tom Brady. Paraphrasing Simmons' point(s): Boston is a working-class, salt-of-the-earth kind of town where haircuts cost $5 and the people grow up, but never leave. Who wants to tell Boston that Brady has never been ANY of these things? He was born and raised in affluence out here in California and attended college in Michigan. Maybe Boston's own Bill Simmons can tell them. From his home in California. Pick: New England

Joe: Well, shit I was going to go for the Beantown Turns on Brady talking point this week! Seriously, though, read Simmons's column for a comment for his pal G-Bug or J-Woww or whoever, which basically comes a millimeter short of calling Brady a fag. The guy who won their loser franchise 3 Super Bowls, mind you. Who would ever want to live in that hell-town? Pick: New England

Detroit at Minnesota

Aaron: Even though m'man Sage tried to talk me out of it, I laid some internet coin and took the Lions (+10.5) on the road here. Straight up, Minnesota should do enough to win by a touchdown or less. The Vikings schedule going forward is brutal, though. 1-7 isn't out of the realm of…oh, I'm so giddy at the prospect that I can hardly type! Pick: Minnesota

Joe: I like the Lions with the points too, but if any defense in the league is going to give Favre the Early Bird Special, as it were, it's probably Detroit. Pick: Minnesota

San Francisco at Kansas City

Aaron: The 49ers framed it as a moral victory, but it was still a heartbreaking loss at home to a Saints team that only seemed about 10% interested in the proceedings. The Chiefs aren't great, but they're at home and they'll show up. Pick: Kansas City

Joe: I kind of love that the Arrowhead Advantage is back in play for a Chiefs team I kind of like (but would like even better if Todd Haley would let goddamn Jamaal Charles play, for the love of fantasy football). That said, the Chiefs looked bad in beating Cleveland while the Niners looked good in a loss (including a shockingly sure-handed two-minute offense from Alex Smith). Pick: San Francisco

Washington at St. Louis

Aaron: Remember when Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan was lauded for his ability to produce a solid running game from the dregs of his Broncos roster? Sorry, coach, but Reuben Droughns isn't walking through that door. Neither are former Broncos Mike Anderson, Tatum Bell, Selvin Young or Clinton Portis. OK, OK...good Clinton Portis. The one that went to the Pro Bowl once or twice. Pick: Washington

Joe: Didn't this game happen a year or two ago. Mediocre Redskins team walks into the Whatever-Named Dome in St. Louis, gets upset by the lowly Rams, walks out a demoralized and despondent bunch? I'd love to pick it again, but Donovan McNabb does kind of eat these crappy teams for breakfast. Pick: Washington

Philadelphia at Jacksonville

Aaron: After a win over Denver in week #1 and a loss to the Chargers in week #2, the Jaguars have picked up one of those "I don't know what to make of this team" vibes. Really? After last week's obliteration, Jacksonville is anything but enigmatic. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: This is the truth. After five years of uncertainty, I finally have a handle on how to pick Jags' games. Pick: Philadelphia

San Diego at Seattle

Aaron: Seattle's 25-point win in San Francisco looks a LOT less impressive now that we've had two weeks of hindsight and paranoid press conferences to show us how dysfunctional the 49ers are. The Chargers next four games are this one, home to Arizona, at Oakland and at St. Louis. It's clobberin' time. Pick: San Diego

Joe: With a West Coast team like San Diego, us East Coast Elites don't get a ton of opportunity to watch the games, and thus depend on things like fantasy football analysts and Ron Jaworski. The first time I heard about Mike Tolbert stepping in as the Chargers' RB last season, his impact was compared to that of occasionally-electrifying wood sprite Darren Sproles. Then I saw Tolbert. Think a bowling ball with football pads, crossed with
Jason Whitlock. (Or if Whitlock's too esoteric and sportswriterly a reference, try LV from the "Gangsta's Paradise" video.) (...Fat black guy. He's a fat black guy.) Pick: San Diego

Indianapolis at Denver

Aaron: Peyton Manning's arm might outlive us all. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: As might the concept of uncertainty in the Broncos' backfield. Apparently Knowshown Moreno will be a No-Show Moreno this week. HA HA HA HA what? Pick: Indianapolis

Oakland at Arizona

Aaron: So, the Jason Campbell era ends after six quarters, as my Raiders will start Bruce Gradkowski at QB on Sunday. A desperate act from a desperate head coach who is working on a week-by-week basis at this point. Meh. I've heard worse mission statements. Pick: Oakland

Joe: I recall Gradkowski being surprisingly serviceable last season. Yet, I feel I'll stick with Bad Team At Home > Bad Team on Road. Pick: Arizona

N.Y. Jets at Miami

Aaron: The Jets aren't as good as they looked against the Patriots last week or as bad as they looked against the Ravens in week #1. But, the ingredients are here for one of those let-down games: fired-up home crowd, confident home team playing division rival and the fact that Jets QB Mark Sanchez has only posted back-to-back great games once in 20 starts: October 25, 2009 at Oakland and November 1, home to...
Miami? Damn it. Well, I'm not retyping this. Pick: Miami

Joe: The Dolphins did everything in their power to hand last week's game back to the Vikings. This week, I believe their efforts will pay off. Pick: NY Jets

Green Bay at Chicago

Aaron: Wait, wait, wait...the Bears won with some shaky officiating in week #1 and defeated a Cowboys team that hasn't looked good for one minute of 2010. And, from this, the Bears are "back"?! Sure, they are. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: While I do appreciate how the 2010 Bears have turned Cam into a grumpy old Jewish man ("From this I should be impressed? FEH!"), I think the Packers end up making them pay for mistakes the Lions and Cowboys couldn't. Pick: Green Bay

Thursday, September 23, 2010

TBG TV: 2010 Fall Preview -- Thursday

Show I'm Already Watching: The caustic, cynical sitcom didn't die when Daria went off the air, y'all! NBC's Community was my favorite new show from last year, featuring solid writing and off-the-charts cast chemistry all season. In any given week, Donald Glover's "Troy" character could be plotting with Danny Pudi's "Abed", while Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) are discussing Winger (Joel McHale), when – unbeknownst to the them -- Winger and Annie are sharing a forbidden kiss. Hell, I even warmed up to Chevy Chase and his dated "Chevy Chase" routine. This is a man who hasn't been funny since 1989, people! Community brought him back! Community!

Show I'm No Longer Watching: So long, The Office. The Jim/Pam piñata is a lazy scapegoat and my issues with your increasingly infrequent funny run a lot deeper than that. In simplest terms: Michael Scott has insulted/offended everyone that he possibly can; Dwight Schrute's corporate power plays fail every week and any interesting, outside-the-box storylines (Michael Scott Paper Company, Ryan the Boss) are cut off at the knees in mid-stream. I'm absolutely rooting for the show to re-find its footing. But, with news that this will be Steve Carrell's last season, this seems like the right time to get off. And, don't try to entice me with the return of Amy Ryan. I might've been the only Office fan who found her to be more "annoying" than "adorable". There, I said it.

New Shows to TiVO: I'm a sucker for any new show that receives almost universally negative reviews. And, the near-record levels of critical bile for both NBC's Outsourced and CBS's Sh*t My Dad Says has me ironically excited. Outsourced is another office-based sitcom, but with the racial/cultural humor exported to India. Sh*t My Dad Says revolves around an inappropriate, politically-incorrect patriarch. How can a half-assed attempt to recapture the early magic of The Office and Archie Bunker, respectively, possibly fail? Spectacularly, I hope!

New Show with No Chance: I don't care how leggy Maggie Q might be – and, Lord Jesus,
those legs stretch from floor to ceiling – I just can't get my head around the umpteenth iteration of the Nikita (CW) series. The Cold War ended two decades ago and, consequently, made characters like Nikita, Boris Badenov and Inspector Gadget archaic. In fact, the end of hostilities with the Soviet Union erased two Nikitas from relevancy. Don't laugh, America. I'm old enough to remember how close to the brink we were.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

TBG TV: 2010 Fall Preview -- Wednesday

Shows I'm Already Watching: My deeply-embedded bias against child actors keeps me from crowning Modern Family (ABC) as the best new show from last season, but the silver medal is nothing to sneeze at. Well-written and brilliantly cast, the individual storylines with each of the three couples/families could easily stand on their own from week-to-week. That the writers so effectively weave them into an often-satisfying finish is no small feat.

I'm still on board with Cougar Town, but found myself enjoying the season a little bit less by the end of its premiere season. Early on, Courtney Cox's "Jules" character was played for self-deprecating laughs on the dating scene with several eccentric – and excellent – characters in the background. Somewhere along the way, the show turned into Friends: Over 40 -- Grayson slept with Jules' girlfriend Laurie , but realized his mistake and tried to keep it a secret. But, then Andy found out and told his wife, Ellie -- Jules' other girlfriend. Grayson and Jules then slept together and EVERYONE knows except Jules' ex-husband, Bobby. Yes, I'm still on board!

Show I'm No Longer Watching: Well, I guess this is goodbye, Law & Order: SVU. Mrs. Bootleg and I didn't discover you until the spring of 2004, when our then-infant son Jalen was hooked up to his portable heart monitor and on house arrest during the first two months after he came home from the hospital. Thanks to the continuous loop of reruns that aired on the USA Network, we were caught up on all five seasons in a week and a half. I followed the first-run episodes for six more seasons on NBC, but I'm officially out. The increasingly absurd storylines, ridiculous plot twists and seemingly weekly " crossed the line, hand in your badge...!" proclamations proved too incessant to overcome.

New Show to TiVO: I don't have high hopes for Undercovers (NBC) -- the latest JJ Abrams drama -- but, in accordance with the wishes of the National Black Caucus and Ebony Magazine, I'm obligated to give it a shot. Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw star as husband-and-wife superspies. (Alternate title: Mr. & Mrs. (Black)Smith*) In the promos I've seen, Mbatha-Raw's gun-wielding believability falls somewhere between
Melanie Griffith and Kathleen Turner.

* -- There is no way - NONE - that I was the first person to make this joke. But, I've been sitting on it since I first heard this show was on its way and I make no apologies for my lazy, racial play-on-words.

New Show with No Chance: I already told you about my favorite Wednesday night show. Modern Family gives equal time to three different relationships. There's the "married, middle-aged with children" unit; the "older man marries woman half his age" couple and the "committed gay men who've just become fathers". Easy to follow...the concepts are accessible to most viewers...1, 2, 3. In the 8:30 PM timeslot, ABC is debuting Better with You -- described by one its stars as being "about relationships in three different stages". There's the "about-to-get-married" couple, the "ain't-never-gonna-get-married" couple and the old married couple. Easy to follow...the concepts are accessible to most viewers...1, 2, 3. No thanks, ABC. You've got me covered 30 minutes later.

TBG TV: 2010 Fall Preview -- Tuesday

Shows I'm Already Watching: Nothing? What the hell kind of "Fall TV Preview" is this?! Truth be told, I had to check out my Tuesday TV preview post from last year to see what new show I had intended to watch. Aaaand…it seems I "totally planned" to watch ABC's remake of V…except I never did. After the first two episodes, m'man Daniels called it the "best new show of the [2009] season, so far." But…in last week's Entertainment Weekly, executive producer Scott Rosenbaum said that the first season "lacked mythology" and "didn't answer enough questions". That sure sounds like the retroactive admissions of a TV suit who's frantically trying to placate a skeptical fanbase.

New Show to TiVO: I've made the not-so-difficult decision to drop a certain long-running Wednesday night drama and a certain long-running Thursday night comedy from my DVR rotation. Consequently, I'm opening up Tuesday nights to three new shows. The premise of Raising Hope (FOX) has been done to death (ill-prepared slacker become an iller-prepared single father), but the reviews have been favorable and almost always include the words "dark" and "mean-spirited". Sold!

Will Arnett's Running Wilde (FOX) has me less enthused (an Odd Couple concept that puns its title from a character's surname? Why not call it
Handle with Care?), but I'll give it a shot. Finally, Michael Chiklis gets another super-hero opportunity with No Ordinary Family (ABC). I admire how quickly everyone on planet Earth agreed to strike those awful Fantastic Four movies from existence, but it remains to be seen whether Chiklis can be anything other than a brooding, morally ambiguous chap wrapped in a leather jacket – a Dark Knight Danny Zuko, as it were.

New Show with No Chance: Good ol' TV and its never-ending quest to exploit the socioeconomically depressed. Never change! Not long after the Los Angeles riots in 1992, FOX green-lit the pandering, depressing and short-lived South Central. A decade later, FOX's K-Ville awkwardly brought the buddy-cop concept to post-Katrina New Orleans. This season, ABC has Detroit 1-8-7. The Motor City is universally regarded as the embodiment of America's failing economy AND boasts a real-life 21st century crime rate that the writers of Robocop depicted with 95 – 98% accuracy back in 1987. Using this as the backdrop for Nielsen-driven fiction seems unnecessary.

Monday, September 20, 2010

TBG TV: 2010 Fall Preview -- Monday

Shows I'm Already Watching: Nothing. Still! I tried to rectify that last fall with CBS' freshman entry Accidentally on Purpose. Unfortunately, star Jenna Elfman and an unspectacular cast were handed a dated concept – older woman carries the baby of a younger, immature man – straight from the sitcom syndication days of the late 1980s. (Seriously, "That Bootleg Teen" would've watched the 1989 version starring Ann Jillian in the lead role – fresh from her run on It's A Living – and the guy who played Mallory's bouffant boyfriend on the just-ended Family Ties as her baby-daddy. Oh, come on! My imaginary show is no worse than We Got It Made, She's the Sheriff or Small Wonder.)

Now, I know a lot of friends and co-workers who swear by CBS' Monday Night lineup, but I have a hard time getting in on established shows – even the ones that are episodically insulated like most situation comedies. Years ago, several of my readers implored me to give Arrested Development a try. "The humor is right up your alley", I was told. I never watched and it was cancelled. Do I blame myself? Well, no more than I blame all of YOU for the cancellation of Pushing Daisies. It was a good show!

New Show to TiVO: Twenty years ago, I was one of the few people in America who wasn't watching Roseanne. Today, I get the opportunity to be one of the few people in America who'll tune in for the ersatz version -- the series premiere of Mike & Molly (CBS). Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy are a plus-size, working-class couple who…well, he's a beat cop and she's an elementary school teacher. I'm setting the "over/under" for the first episode's number of donut jokes at 1.5 and the number of adorably mean-spirited digs from the teacher's grade school kids at two. Place your bets.

New Show with No Chance: Sorry, The Event (NBC). If recent history is any indication – and it ALWAYS is – here's how my viewing experience with your twisty-turny show will go: (1) I'll watch the premiere. (2) I'll mention to Mrs. Bootleg – who dozed off after the first 15 minutes – that your show didn't grab me out of the gate, but I'll give it a chance. (3) Your next four episodes will sit undisturbed on my DVR before I delete them with a half-assed promise to Netflix the first season on DVD and jump on board for the start of the second season. I respectfully offer up The Nine, Invasion and Flash Forward as exhibits A, B and C.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

TBG TV: 2010 Fall Preview -- Sunday

Shows I'm Already Watching: Yup. I'm still watching The Simpsons. No one disputes how far the show's fallen from its apex*; but the last few seasons have been perfectly watchable and still capable of producing an infrequent gem. I remain onboard with the rest of FOX's "Animation Domination" line-up, too. The Cleveland Show had an uneven first season, but rallied nicely after its unimpressive pilot. Meanwhile, the infrequent funnies on Family Guy and American Dad! are trumped by my need to bash something in my infrequent Sunday Night blog recap.

* -- Has there ever been a definitive ruling on WHEN the peak years of The Simpsons were? I prefer the broad brush retrospective retrospecticus and claim 1990 through 2000. I could be talked into narrowing that stretch down to 1993 through 1997 -- coincidentally, the same five-year run gave us the rise and fall of commercialized West Coast rap. God, I miss 1993 through 1997.

New Show to TiVO: I guess I'll half-heartedly endorse HBO's Boardwalk Empire. I dunno, though. Steve Buscemi in the lead role of a $65 million (and counting) roll of the dice to recapture that "thinking man's serial drama" spirit of The Sopranos? In Entertainment Weekly's write-up of the show, one of the executive producers is already administering damage control by hinting that it may be too smart for audiences and tamping down TV ratings expectations. I make no promises here.

New Show with No Chance: (Tie) The Walking Dead (AMC) and Sarah Palin's Alaska (TLC). OK, would an "Enough with the zombies and vampires, already!" joke be too "Jay Leno" or too "George Lopez"? Really? Even though she IS the walking undead!


Das Wampyr!

[Readers look at screen blankly.]

A vampire!**

** -- The above dialogue was lifted from The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror IV episode (original airdate: 28 October 1993). And, we've come full circle.

2010 NFL Pickery -- Week #2

Last Week:

Joe: 11-5
Tom: 10-6
Aaron: 9-7


Joe: 11-5
Tom: 10-6
Aaron: 9-7

Arizona at Atlanta

Aaron: LOTS of "See?! I told you Atlanta wasn't for real!" coming out of last week's loss to Pittsburgh. I'm reminded that I saw Will Ferrell's uneven The Other Guys last weekend. When I've shared this, I get the holier-than-thou "I don't know why you waste your money on his movies" lecture. The Falcons may not be Anchorman, but they're good enough to (old) school the Cardinals. Pick: Atlanta

Joe: Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I pretty much called exactly how last week's Falcons game would go. I don't think it's time to panic -- that Steelers defense will make a lot of offenses look inept. Speaking of inept offenses ... sorry, Arizona. Pick: Atlanta

Tampa Bay at Carolina

Aaron: I don't wanna be "that guy", Tampa Bay, but Panthers QB Matt Moore looked abominable in last week's loss to the Giants and suffered a concussion, yet he's still going to start against you guys. How are you gonna react to such an abject lack of respect?! Oh, right. Pick: Carolina

Joe: These intra-division NFC South matchups rarely go the way you expect them to, but if I'm trying to simplify things: Carolina lost to a good Giants team last week; Tampa beat a terrible Cleveland team. The universe needs these things to even out. Pick: Carolina

Kansas City at Cleveland

This game would appear to be quite the effective retort to those phenomenal "rival fans"
DirecTV spots. Then, again, my wife buys me the Major League Baseball TV package for my birthday every year based solely on my love for the similarly sad-sack Oakland A's. A fool and their! Pick: Cleveland

Joe: Have you heard that we're not supposed to the Week 1 results? Not to ignore such widespread advice, but I have to say, the Chiefs really impressed me on Monday night. The running game looks explosive, the defense looks spirited (if probably still weak-ish in the secondary), and big-play special teams will swing 2-3 games in their favor this season. 8-8 seems quite do-able, which means 9-7 and a division title is just a lucky bounce away. Meanwhile, Seneca Wallace could use a lucky bounce or ten. Pick: Kansas City

Philadelphia at Detroit

Aaron: I watched most of Michael Vick's "electrifying" relief performance last week. He still doesn't do the fundamental quarterback-y stuff very well and, with a week to prepare for him, the pissed off Lions should...wait, Detroit's starting their back-up QB, too? No...I'm not talking myself out of this. Pick: Detroit

Joe: You're a brave man, though I do agree with the first half of that blurb. Still, Lions fans, don't think I didn't try to get you to slow your roll (for your own good!) last week. Pick: Philadelphia

Pittsburgh at Tennessee

My favorite never-fail, two-tiered prognosticating tactic (which team has the best player, which team's at home) gives the edge to the Titans here. Vince Young, 2-0 to start the season. Accept it, planet Earth. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: I actually wouldn't be shocked to see the Steelers bottle up the Titans O like they did to Atlanta last week, but I'm not sure the Steelers will be putting up many points at all until Rapey McGee returns to the lineup. Pick: Tennessee

Miami at Minnesota

Aaron: If Brett Favre's 2009 season was the equivalent of Robert Patrick's T-1000 character reassembling itself from liquid metal in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, then his 2010 season could be akin to Patrick's ruination of The X-Files. Pick: Minnesota

Joe: That analogy is so beautiful, I kinda don't want to ruin it by saying anything. Pick: Minnesota

Baltimore at Cincinnati

This week's Sports Illustrated included a feature on last week's Bengals loss that went out of its way to paint WRs Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco as self-promoting, vainglorious dolts. Sports Illustrated -- a week behind on in-game reporting, a lifetime behind everything else. Pick: Baltimore

Joe: After last week, the Bengals defense might be exactly the tonic that the Ravens' offense is looking for. Pick: Baltimore

Chicago at Dallas

I can already tell that Dallas is going to be my annual "team I can't figure out from week-to-week". Should I be impressed that the Cowboys so spectacularly crapped the bed last Sunday, but still only lost by six points on the road? They'll have it all figured out in time for their home opener, right? GAH! See?! Pick: Dallas

Joe: Yeah, I think the lesson here is more that the Bears' offense is just as inept this year as it was last year. Pick: Dallas

Buffalo at Green Bay

Aaron: I'm facing Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in both of my fantasy leagues this week. Much like the Bills, I'm inclined to cut my losses here and look ahead to week three. What's that, you say? The Bills travel to New England in week three? Oh, Joe. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: Last year, my suicide-pool dreams were dashed when the Packers got beat at home by the (then-) lowly Bengals. If my own crappy Bills do the same to me this year, I might not be able to forgive them. Pick: Green Bay

St. Louis at Oakland

Aaron: The same sports media that built up Oakland a surprise team or even a fringe contender coming into the season quickly backpedaled after last week's loss to the Titans. The Raiders' soft schedule was the team's sole hope for seven or eight wins. Don't judge 'em against a very good Titans team...judge them here. If they can't beat the Rams -- at home -- by 10 points, I'll be hibernating until Spring Training. Pick: Oakland

Joe: Sam Bradford played not-terribly enough to give decent hope for future good play. ...You know, down the road. Next year, perhaps. Pick: Oakland

Seattle at Denver

Aaron: How many of these "team that lost on the road in week one gets to play in front of their raucous home crowd for week two" games are there going to be this week? In this scenario, always take the home team. Uh, unless it's Cincinnati. Pick: Denver

Joe: Denver doesn't impress me. I mean, neither does Seattle, but I can decide whether they were just handed that Niners game on a platter. So ... I actually just flipped a coin. Pick: Denver

Jacksonville at San Diego

Aaron: For the first time since November 2004, a Chargers home game will be blacked out locally here in San Diego. I cannot tell you how much I'm looking forward to a steady stream of "WTF? What channel is the Chargers game on?" Facebook status updates from my friends here who aren't entirely familiar with the league's broadcast policies. Hee! Pick: San Diego

Joe: I'm sorry, do the Chargers fans not want to brave the harsh San Diego weather out at the stadium? Did one loss after a 13-win season take all the wind out of their sails? You all disgust me! Pick: San Diego

New England at N.Y. Jets

Humor me...isn't it possible that the Patriots aren't as awesome as their obliteration of an overrated Bengals squad made them look? And, how much credit does the Ravens' always-solid defense get for shutting down the Jets' offense? My point? Settle down, Bill Simmons. Pick: NY Jets

Joe: I wish I had your faith, my friend. Pick: New England

Houston at Washington

Aaron: In the interest of time, I think I'm just going to recycle my "...unless they have a time machine to 2005..." joke that I used with the Bengals last week and apply it here to the Redskins. Cool? Cool. Pick: Houston

Joe: I don't want to ruin it. I REALLY don't want to ruin it. I really shouldn't even say it. I'm being incredibly foolish right now. But ... I'm really happy to have Arian Foster on my fantasy team. Pick: Houston

N.Y. Giants at Indianapolis

Half-asleep home crowd? Check. Questions about the home team's ability to stop an especially bludgeoning running game? Check. Incessant shots from the luxury box of the Manning family? Probably. A handful of new prime-time spots featuring Peyton and Eli Manning's participation in the Oreo Cookie
Double Stuf Racing League? F*ck. Pick: NY Giants

Joe: Wouldn't Manning Bowl be more compelling if there were some actual familial consequences? The losing QB can't come home for Christmas? Or gets visibly shunned by the parents. Let's shake this every-four-years "event" up, NBC. Pick: Indianapolis

New Orleans at San Francisco

Aaron: In the days after his team's loss to Seattle last week, 49ers coach Mike Singletary publically thanked the Seahawks for winning the game. Later, he gave separate press conferences where he feuded with his own starting quarterback and gave a paranoid rant about "rats" in his locker room and the uselessness of new media. How is this guy NOT running the Raiders? Pick: New Orleans

Joe: Look, if Spike Lee, MTV's The Real World, and the entire Kardashian family couldn't ruin the Saints, I don't think this Super Bowl Hangover idea stands much of a chance. Pick: New Orleans

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How Well Do You Know Mrs. Bootleg?

(1) Several years ago, Mrs. Bootleg absolutely RUINED a group outing to Six Flags Magic Mountain when she:

(a) Spent the entire day incessantly complaining about the crowds and long lines.
(b) Needed 90 minutes – and parking lot security – to find our car after the park closed.
(c) Loudly and dramatically refused to ride "Tidal Wave" citing every chapter and verse from the book of "Black Women Don't Get Their Hair Wet".
(d) Felt sick on the drive to Magic Mountain, threw up a few minutes after entering the park and spent the next 6-7 hours doubled over with a vicious stomach bug.

(2) Which interaction occurred between Mrs. Bootleg and a member of my beloved Oakland A's during our first trip to Spring Training in 2001?

(a) Second base prospect
Jose Ortiz casually walked over and started flirting with her.
(b) Infielder
Frank Menechino obscenely gestured towards hecklers who correctly noted he was shorter than Mrs. Bootleg.
(c) She sheepishly apologized to reigning MVP
Jason Giambi after I might've knocked down a few children to get his autograph.
(d) Outfielder
Terrence Long mistook her for a member of his extended family.

(3) Mrs. Bootleg was born and raised in Utah. Utah! Which three states actually have a larger African-American population?

(a) Alaska
(b) New Hampshire
(c) Iowa
(d) Rhode Island

(4) When Mrs. Girlfriend Bootleg's friend Jen got engaged, how did she react to the news?

(a) At 10:00 AM, she called me at work to share the exciting announcement.
(b) At 10:30 AM, she called me at work to ask "Where is OUR relationship going?"
(c) At 11:00 AM, she called me at work and chewed me out for 15 minutes.
(d) Later that day, at a tailgate party and
Padres baseball game – that lasted from noon until 10:00 PM – she didn't say one word to me.
(e) All of the above.

(5) No lie. No exaggeration. I just counted. I'm being 100% serious here. How many bottles of hair care products does Mrs. Bootleg have in the shower at this very moment?

(a) 16
(b) 18
(c) 20
(d) 22

(6) Which of these stereotypical male responsibilities has Mrs. Bootleg NOT YET taken the lead role on in our house?

(a) Grilling and barbecuing.
(b) Assembling shelves, tables, etc.
(c) Completing minor/moderate household repairs.
(d) Managing all household finances.

(7) The week before Mrs. Bootleg gave birth to our son, she was admitted to the hospital with preeclampsia – a very serious condition marked by extremely high blood pressure. One of the symptoms was tremendous swelling in her face. At her worst, which celebrity did she resemble most?

The athlete.
The movie star.
The rapper.
The comic book character.

(8) Where would Mrs. Bootleg rank (either on the weekends or during family vacations) amongst this list of most pronounced animal sleeping habits?

(a) Koala (up to 22 hours/day).
(b) Brown bat (up to 20 hours/day).
(c) Pangolin (up to 18 hours/day).

(9) Mrs. Bootleg is a phenomenal cook. In all the years I've known her, I've only had to issue one "dining room veto" and ask that she never, ever again darken my dinner plate with which of these entrées? (All of which she's made at least once.)

(a) Her 10-pound lasagna that's inexplicably 99% pasta.
(b) Her giant batches of deep, deep-fried French fries fresh from her 15-year-old Fry-Daddy™.
(c) Her Cornish game hens, which strike a delicate balance between super-dry white meat and super-greasy dark meat.
(d) Her angel-hair pasta with garlic shrimp. A tasty-enough meal, but quite possibly the most unsatisfying, least-filling food ever invented.

(10) Which of these songs is NOT on Mrs. Bootleg's iPod?

What We Do – Freeway featuring Jay-Z and Beanie Sigel
Remember the Time – Michael Jackson
Copacabana – Barry Manilow
You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine – Lou Rawls
Wanted Dead or Alive – Bon Jovi

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Bootleg, from all of us me here at TBG!

Answers: 1(d); 2(a); 3(a)(c)(d); 4(e); 5(d)…seriously!; 6(c)…that's what handymen are for; 7(b); 8(between (b) and (c)); 9(c); 10(b)

Previous Quiz: How Well Do You Remember My Wedding?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

TBG Eats: The NEW Smoky Cheddar Steakhouse XT from Burger King

Current Weight: 172.0 lbs.

I've known several men and women who worked within the food service industry. Theirs is a close-knit, insulated world of servers, hosts/hostesses and busboys with NO room for an entitled outsider like me who assistant managed an ice cream shoppe on the beach during my college years.

My server friends always seemed to have the best job-associated anecdotes. For instance, m'man Vig was fired from his gig at Black Angus for telling the guests at an especially obnoxious table to kiss his white ass.

Then, there was the former co-worker of mine who took a job waiting tables at a trendy Hollywood spot. We crossed paths a few weeks later, at which time he informed me of his budding relationship with not-yet-outed actor
Chad Allen – whom he met while working the overnight shift.

But, the most frequently-told story I've heard – always in a hushed, apologetic tone – is that African-Americans are the worst tippers on earth.

At one time, this sentiment irritated me to no end. And, then I saw a close relative leave a two-dollar tip on a $40 check. Later, I briefly dated a girl who – with a straight face – told me she always left just two dollars for the tip because "it's their job to serve me".

Two black women certainly aren't irrefutable evidence of an entire ethnicity's stinginess. Although, the fact that two dollars was the tipping standard in both instances has long had me wondering if it was just a coincidence or did black women establish this tipping ceiling while their men were otherwise occupied back in
October 1995? Disappointingly, that question was NOT answered here.

I like to think that I'm a very good tipper. I'll leave 20% for a reasonably-priced meal and solid service – maybe a little bit more if it's just a bar tab and maybe a little bit less for a pricey, pretentious everything-a-la-carte "experience". I only have five requirements to guarantee maximum gratuity.

(1) If my reservation is at 7:00 PM, I want a table at 7:00 PM. -- Obviously, this is out of the servers' control, but I don't think it's an unreasonable request. Besides, every half-glass of wine that Mrs. Bootleg consumes in the bar while waiting for our table shaves 15-30 minutes off of her ability to carry a lucid dinner conversation.

(2) Full disclosure! -- I'm totally fine when the server comes clean up front. Might the service be a little slow tonight because another server called in sick? Is the kitchen running behind because of the wedding rehearsal dinner over in the banquet room? Just say so.

(3) Write it down! -- Someone should commission a study to assess the accuracy rate for servers who don't write down your order. In my experience, it's around 50%. Can you humor me, here, servers?

(4) At least 10-12 minutes between appetizer and entrée. -- I want to enjoy my Southwestern Pizza Fingers or Million Dollar Birthday Fries before my hobo chicken chili is brought out. (New readers: It's a Simpsons reference. You…might wanna get used to it.)

(5) Don't sell me something I didn't order. -- If I order a steak cooked "medium", I'm not going to send it back if it comes out closer to "medium-well" or "medium-rare". If I order steak and you bring out braised rabbit, please don't give me the "I can put your steak order in…or you can just take the rabbit. Personally, I like it better than the steak!" bit.

Wow…took longer than usual to get here, huh?

Anyways, after Jalen completed Little League practice last week, we swung by Burger King for some high-fat father-son bonding. My son promptly walked up to the counter, noticed the seemingly personable brown-skinned man at the register and asked, "Do you speak English?"

Well played, J. It was good to know that anything we ordered would almost certainly receive the Road Trip Treatment.

I asked for the Smoky Cheddar XT burger – an extra-thick (XT!) hamburger patty topped with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, bacon and a smoky cheddar cheese sauce. Even though, my son and I were the only ones in the restaurant, several minutes passed before our orders were…wait, is that the "Do you speak English" guy?

"We're all out of the cheddar sauce. I can give you barbecue sauce or mayonnaise, if you want."

They're just now realizing the surplus drum of liquid smoke n' melted Velveeta has run dry? Rule #2, Burger King…full disclosure! I grudgingly choose barbecue sauce.

Turns out the substitute burger was surprisingly tasty. Although, the "extra-thick" burger looks nothing like the meat-brick featured in BK's advertisements (even by the exaggerated marketing standards within the fast food industry) it's obviously denser than the standard Whopper.

The barbecue sauce, bacon and cheddar cheese slices carried the flavor load with a sharp blend of spices and swine. The onions and tomatoes pleasantly mixed up the textures and freshened up the otherwise uninteresting meat. Despite a clear violation of my restaurant criteria, Burger King snatches victory from the jaws of defeat.

Although, Jalen's kid's meal toy might've nudged the final grade upward a little.

Grade: 4 (out of 5) 770 calories, 46g fat

Sunday, September 12, 2010

TBG Throwback: Black Actress Survivor

It appears that most – if not all – of my previously archived work from my three-year run as a weekly columnist and features writer on the Inside Pulse pop culture website has fallen off the grid. That's as good an excuse as any to hunt through my hard drive for retro-blog fodder.

"Black Actress Survivor" was one of the more well-received pieces that appeared in my old Bootleg column. It was a collaborative effort with m'man
Joe Reid from a time when concepts were discussed over AOL Instant Messenger and there were enough working black actresses in Hollywood to fill six pages of satire.

So, for those of you who've always wanted dozens of real-life African-American actresses cast on your favorite contrived island reality show…your wait is over. Or as I originally introduced this piece that first ran on September 2, 2005:

Join me on this 10-week midseason replacement run as an assortment of anonymous African-American women attempt to…out-black, out-sass and out-exaggerated finger snap one another, all on: Black Actress Survivor!

Week 1: After paddling to the shores of their deserted island,
Sanaa Lathan and Kerry Washington get to the business of starting a fire, while Kim Fields and Tatyana Ali squabble over water-gathering duties. After a grueling immunity challenge, Marla Gibbs becomes the token old lady voted off first.

Week 2: This week opens with a shocking and surprising development as
Jackeé and Kim Coles wash ashore like a pair of beached beluga whales. Cold, heavy and hungry (natch), the pair sandwich themselves into each tribe. Mere minutes before the eventual elimination of Nia Long, there's tomfoolery afoot! The final two votes against Nia come from former Cosby Kids, Keisha Knight-Pulliam and Tempestt Bledsoe. The unemployed pair had been presumed dead and eaten…by Natalie Desselle -- who starred opposite Halle Berry in B.A.P.S.

Week 3: Strategy is the name of the game in week three, as alliances start to build.
Regina Hall is approached by Regina King for a partnership based on their shared . . . loathing of Tisha Campbell. Tisha, meanwhile, seeks refuge in a proposed Boomerang alliance with Halle Berry and Eartha Kitt. That plan falls through when Eartha tries for one purring voiceover too many and accidentally chokes to death.

After flying under the radar for the first two weeks,
Jennifer Beals is voted out for "trying to pass." At tribal council, a shifty-eyed Jasmine Guy and Rae Dawn Chong realize they're gonna need a new game plan.

Week 4: The Parkers
Countess Vaughn and Mo'Nique emerge from the island's twin tar pits of UPN Cancellation-cum-BET Syndication. However, the two were no match for resident island muscle, Marsha Warfield, who knocks them back into the abyss of Black Entertainment Television and an eternity as the lead-in for Eve.

Lela Rochon and Theresa Randle return from their most recent vestiges of relevancy (1997's Gang Related and Spawn, respectively) and immediately start beef with Angela Bassett. Their good-natured potshots ("Why come you ain't green, She-Hulk?") precede more personal attacks, until Bassett finally snaps.

Week 5: By the time the fifth week rolls around, the ladies are getting on each others' nerves.
Gabrielle Union just will not stop with the "this one time with Morris Chestnut" and "that other movie I did with Morris" stories. Jennifer Lewis finally has to tell her to shut the hell up. Elsewhere, a jonesing Macy Gray takes a knife to Vivica A. Fox's hair extensions in an ill-fated attempt to smoke them.

At tribal council, the Aged Alliance of
Mary Alice, Cicely Tyson, and Irma P. Hall team up to give Robin Givens the knockout punch that Mike never gave her. As Givens gets her torch snuffed, an inebriated Macy Gray (she found a toad to lick) can be heard slurring "from 'Head of the Class' to out on your ass, bitch!"

Week 6: Food is getting scarce. For the last seven days, both tribes have been forced to subsist off the scraps and seaweed stuck between
Paula Jai Parker's 63 teeth. Even worse, it appears that T'Keyah "Crystal" Keymah island-inspired "fishbone n' coconut" African-American hair and beauty care products have the women looking like the remains of Rain Pryor. A sullen and silent S. Epatha Merkerson is voted off the island, as she could not muster up a word in her own defense. The Law & Order star is only used to one or two lines per week in prime time. Sadly, she filled her quota with a quip on how she DOES look similar to a shaven Gregory Hines.

Week 7: Week seven sees the tribes merge and make camp at a smaller, more remote island. They make their move at night, and wait until
Wanda Sykes falls asleep before they go, leaving her behind to relive her glory days of Pootie Tang all alone. Nona Gaye keeps trying to find an alliance to join, but sadly, unlike with the Matrix sequels, Aaliyah's not around to die so a spot can open up for her.

Lisa Nicole Carson and Loretta Devine engage in an epic breasts-vs.-breasts showdown that's been in the making ever since their first altercation in the David E. Kelley staff lounge back in 1999.

And finally, after weeks and weeks of putting up with her constant challenge-time exhortations of "Come on! It's all in the face! Pow! Fierce! What!"
Tyra Banks is finally sent packing to her other reality show.

Week 8: It's the start of sweeps month and, in a blatant grab for ratings, both women who played Mrs. Vivian Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air are sharing quality on-screen island time. Admittedly, it doesn't make for the most riveting TV, as
Janet Hubert-Whitten and Daphne Maxwell-Reid have patched up most of their long-existing differences, with only one unsettled issue left open for discussion: What was up with the casting of Karyn Parsons as the oldest Banks kid? Were producers just trying to capitalize on The Cosby Show's random mocha-colored child quota? And, in a surprising twist, Queen Latifah is voted off as the status of "one-time Academy Award nominee" couldn't outweigh her current standing of "one-time star of Beauty Shop and Taxi".

Week 9: Let the mad charge to the finale begin, with multiple tribal councils seeing casualties falling left and right.
Erika Alexander, bereft of her Living Single alliance-mates, proves easy pickings. In a shocking development, Lynn Whitfield and Alfre Woodard both look at each other and can't believe they're stuck on the same island as these no-talent sitcom has-beens and up and row the canoe back to respectability. And a dearth of Hollywood roles for them.

Kimberly Elise keeps trying to get Oprah on the phone so she can call in a few favors that she built up on the set of Beloved (letting O have the last Boston Crème in the box has its benefits), but she and Thandie Newton keep tying up the lines, and they're both given the boot.

And at long last,
Ruby Dee is voted off, as a jealous (and clueless) Holly Robinson Peete exclaims "Mother Sister?! That doesn't even make sense!"

Week 10: The final tribal council draws closer, and thus the biggest threats to win become the biggest targets.

Fearing the tremendous sway they'll have with the jury (the jury being filled with old gay men for some reason),
Diahann Carroll and Lena Horne are dispatched in short order.

Jada Pinkett Smith, who had been flying under the radar (literally, she was too short to be picked up by detection equipment), gets noticed when Vanessa L. Williams trips over her. Having saved the best for last, Vanessa engineers Jada's ouster.

Meanwhile, former ER stars
Michael Michele and Khandi Alexander team up to vote out Anna Deavere Smith, having grown wary of the woman's surprisingly prominent jowls and the damage they could cause after a month without proper nourishment.

And, finally, with the surprise elimination of
Elise Neal and a landslide jury vote over Sheryl Lee Ralph (during which the jury fiercely debated exactly how Sheryl came to be famous anyway), the winner of Black Actress Survivor is finally crowned . . .

The one . . .

The only . . .

The eternally teenaged . . .

Thursday, September 9, 2010

2010 NFL Pickery -- Week #1 (Updated)

For the fifth consecutive season, m'man Movie Joe Reid and I are picking NFL games straight up in our ongoing war to determine guessing-supremacy. Also along for the ride is Nickname-Pending Tom Daniels – for space considerations, his picks will always run here.

If you're a new reader, I cannot recommend Joe and Tom's writing highly enough. Joe's
Low Resolution blog is your one-stop-shop for analysis of television, movies…and never-ending TV/movies award show predictions. Tom's One New York Life blog is written from the viewpoint of an unlikeable silver-haired man who enjoys over-easy eggs, craft beer and traveling abroad – because he's better than you.

Thanks again to 2009 Cincinnati Bengals for
openly tanking the final game of last year's regular season and handing Joe the prognosticating crown for the first time.

Minnesota at New Orleans

Aaron: Most of the complex, esoteric metrics show that last year's Saints defense overachieved like few other units have during the so-called modern era. The prevailing notion is that there's no way they can repeat that performance. Personally, I see no reason why the Saints won't be scraping Brett Favre's spleen off their feet. Again. Pick: New Orleans

Joe: My long-running hatred for the Minnesota Vikings has always been the least understandable of my sports hatreds. No local rivalry to speak of, they never handed the Bills a crushing defeat, they've never won a championship -- and yet, I've always had this weird antipathy towards them. Of course, with Favre on the team, my hatred is finally backed up, which is nice in an existential/philosophical way. But it doesn't help me figure out whether I think the Vikes will be awful this year because of sound rational thinking or because I hate them so very much. The Sidney Rice/Percy Harvin injury concerns are overrated (a good QB makes the WR, not the other way around), but at some point, Favre age and lack of off-season conditioning (he still needs surgery, right?) will catch up with him. Pick: New Orleans

Carolina at NY Giants

Joe: I have a feeling this year's Giants could take the Jacksonville Jaguars/Cleveland Browns memorial Slippery When Wet: Impossible to Predict award. They're talented, and their defense is almost guaranteed to rebound from last season, but I can't trust them. Meanwhile, who in Carolina thinks Matt Moore is a good idea? Pick: NY Giants

Aaron: Me thinks the Giants' season-long dysfunction on defense in 2009 (plus a pair of ineffectual offensive efforts to end the season) has created a sort of bizarro-blowback against Eli Manning. Last year's 8-8 effort wasn't his fault, kids. But, props to New Yorkers for finding a worse local scapegoat than Omar Minaya. Pick: NY Giants

Atlanta at Pittsburgh

Joe: Atlanta's getting a lot of bandwagon support for a turnaround season, but on the road facing a rejuvenated Pittsburgh defense is no way to start the year. I think the Steelers are starting Bubby Brister at quarterback, but I still think this is a low-scoring battle they can win. Pick: Pittsburgh

Aaron: My favorite part of Ben Roethlisberger's unseemly offseason shenanigans? The ridiculous notion that Steelers fans turned on him and wouldn't welcome him back to their laughably naive vision of a blue-collar, family-owned, small-town team...owned by a billionaire...who employs millionaires...and, at least one rapist. Pick: Atlanta

Cleveland at Tampa Bay

Joe: Jake Delhomme isn't going to make Cleveland a playoff team, but in this case, I don't think he'll need to be half that good. But wait! What of the oh-so-demoralized Cleveland fans? ...You know. Cuz of LeBron? Are you saying one sport has absolutely no bearing on the other? Don't you read the internet? Pick: Cleveland

Aaron: 25 years ago, the Browns brought in a new, mediocre quarterback -- instilling false hope in their fanbase -- while the Bucs were abominable. This Sunday, Jake Delhomme assumes the role of Bernie Kosar. Also starring the 1985 themselves. Pick: Cleveland

Denver at Jacksonville

Joe: The two worst teams in the AFC? If you ignore my Beloved and Beleaguered Buffalo Bills then...maybe. Pick: Jacksonville

Aaron: Lots of mixed signals surrounding the health of Jags RB/Franchise Maurice Jones-Drew and his (allegedly) ailing knee. Should I make the "Tim Tebow will heal him" reference now or save it for later in the season? You're right, let's save it. Pick: Jacksonville

Indianapolis at Houston

Joe: This is a bad time of the year for Houston -- notoriously slow-starters under Gary Kubiak -- to get their home game against the Goliath-y Colts. No chance at a Peyton Manning injury or anything. Pick: Indianapolis

Aaron: The Colts have had to scratch and claw hoof their way to victory in the last few meetings between these teams. With a new offensive coordinator in Indy, a raucous Houston crowd and Peyton Manning on TWO of my fantasy teams...I have a bad feeling about this. Still can't pull the trigger, though. Pick: Indianapolis

Miami at Buffalo

Joe: It's weird, Buffalo was the popular pick for basement of the NFL pretty much all summer, until the last few weeks, when the stat-heads started talking about injury-regression and one or two intrepid souls were actually predicting a miracle 8-8 season. Ha ha! You can't fool me, jerks! Pick: Miami

Aaron: Fun with Pro-Football In the past 10 years, the Bills have either won outright or lost by no more than six points in all but one of their season openers. So, Joe...there's that. Pick: Miami

Detroit at Chicago

Joe: Are we actually going to be forced to issue a "Calm down, kiddo" to Lions fans? LIONS fans? How can this be possible? How can they allow their enthusiasm to creep up to unrealistic levels like this? 9-7? Playoff sleepers? You poor bastards. Pick: Chicago

Aaron: Notwithstanding any residual schadenfreude I may be enjoying at the expense of Jay Cutler's 2009 struggles, I'm not subscribing to the simmering notion that the Lions are on the rise. Not that I wouldn't mind them proving me wrong here. Pick: Chicago

Oakland at Tennessee

Joe: I could sort of be talked into a Raiders resurgence. Crappy division. Have shown sparks of scrappy play last season. It's something that takes some time to build, though. And Tennessee has that Chris Johnson guy. Pick: Tennessee

Aaron: Seven wins. I'd been saying my Raiders will win eight games to friends and co-workers, but (1) they're still coached by the real-life carbon blob from Sector 7G; (2) they don't have any roster depth and (3) the nagging injuries are already starting to pile up. I'll take all these things in exchange for excising the metric-ton tumor that was JaMarcus Russell. Pick: Tennessee

Cincinnati at New England

Joe: I don't know about you all, but I'm really looking forward to this allegedly terrible New England defense. Meanwhile, everybody needs to step off of Tom Brady and his haircut. What guy wouldn't want to sport the hair love-child of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo? Pick: New England

Aaron: Unless the Bengals have access to a time machine set to 2005, I doubt Carson Palmer, Chad OchoBojangle and Terrell Owens are gonna make that much of an impact, yo. Pick: New England

Arizona at St. Louis

Joe: Rookie #1 draft pick Sam Bradford? Meet Darnell Dockett. Again and again. Pick: Arizona

Aaron: Aaaand, Cardinals' QB Derek Anderson? Meet...uhh, four guys in the Lions' secondary. Wow, this game's harder than it looks. Pick: Arizona

San Francisco at Seattle

Joe: Poor Matt Hasselbeck, man. He'd be a perfectly adequate stopgap QB for a middling contender. Seattle is several levels below that. Pick: San Francisco

Aaron: You don't see too many of them anymore and they're NEVER mentioned alongside Cowboys, Steelers and Patriots fans, but 49ers fans are -- collectively -- some of the more underrated jerk-faces in sports. "Five Super Bowls!" "Team of the '80s!" "We're BACK!" This year, San Francisco might win nine games and still take the division. Pick: San Francisco

Green Bay at Philadelphia

Joe: With Brent Celek and Jeremy Maclin, I've placed a good bit of my fantasy football season on Kevin Kolb's arm. I'm not entirely sold yet. Meanwhile, Post-Favre Green Bay making the Super Bowl is going into its third season as the nation's #1 feel-good story. I'm not sure if we're willing to give it a fourth, so make it happen, cheese-folk. Pick: Green Bay

Aaron: I had a brief Twitter discussion with m'man Hansen over Kevin Kolb's rollercoaster preseason. In early August, Kolb was being called a fantasy football sleeper. By the third week of exhibition games, Kolb had established residency on every expert's fantasy "stay-away" list. I'm not ready to crap on Kolb (who'll be wrapped within the protective cocoon of Philadelphia's frightening, profane home crowd) based on a few weeks of fake football and I'm not anointing Aaron Rodgers as the
ch-ch-chosen one for the exact same reason. Pick: Philadelphia

Dallas at Washington

Joe: Week 1 is a total crapshoot, but there has to be one outcome that makes no sense on paper. Better roll with Donovan McNabb now before his body officially falls apart later. Pick: Washington

Aaron: For all of his perceived shortcomings as a "clutch" quarterback, Tony Romo has been a lot better than his indifferent, celebrity-dating public persona would have you believe. You want a sleeper MVP pick? Nah, I won't go that far. Of course, if I'm right, I'll come back and erase these last two sentences. Pick: Dallas

Baltimore at NY Jets

Joe: Two bandwagon teams I actually do believe in, and two fairly evenly-matched ones at that. Go with the home team, I guess, though watch out for the Mark Sanchez concern trolls to swarm if he shows even a hint of vulnerability. Pick: NY Jets

Aaron: It's not that I'm underwhelmed with Mark Sanchez (and, yes, I am) it's that I've been waving the Joe Flacco flag since everyone turned on him for not taking a quantum leap forward after his solid rookie season in 2008. Instead, he made small gains in the all the right areas last year and I like Flacco's chances in front the quiet
corporate crowd that'll be filling the Jets' new home on opening week. Pick: Baltimore

San Diego at Kansas City

Joe: Here's what I don't entirely understand: San Diego went 13-3 last season despite LaDanian Tomlinson dragging ass pretty much the whole way. This year, everybody's picking the Chargers for a catastrophic collapse because ... they lost LaDanian Tomlinson? I get the Vincent Jackson thing, but WR is easily the most overvalued position in football, and the AFC West is still the AFC West. KC is going to be competitive this season -- and probably in this game -- but San Diego isn't dead yet. Pick: San Diego

Aaron: In defense of the haters, Joe, the doom n' gloom is based more on the continued holdout of LT Marcus McNeill -- who played at an All-Pro level in protecting Philip Rivers' blindside last year. Agreed that the Chargers are still the class of a crappy division, but the Chiefs have a fighting chance in front of a home crowd that will have been drinking for 12 straight hours in preparation of a 9:00 PM (local) start time. Oh, and Norv Turner's still the Chargers coach, right? Pick: San Diego