Monday, September 13, 2004

#90. Emmys, Listen Up, Lost, CSI Miami, Wrestling

Some minor notes from Sunday's Emmy's to start things off: Since when did Bradley Whitford become Brad Whitford? And who was Sunday's Mariska Hargitay and what did she do with the usual one? Dang! She cleans up nicely! I mistook her for Jolene Blalock, in fact. The two could be sisters. Maybe one should appear on the other's show and try that. I'd like to see Blalock on SVU, though. After learning Jeri Ryan really was not that great a regular actress in her David E. Kelly incarnation (Boston Public), it was a bit of a letdown. She was a pretty good robot. And Blalock is a pretty good Vulcan, but she doesn't exactly have a grocery list of regular roles to her credit.

Anyhoo, Monday night was the series premiere of Jason Alexander's new show, Listen Up. I haven't found one critic who liked the series, and the favorite reason is that Alexander can't possibly do justice to Tony Kornheiser, the Washington Post and ESPN personality his character is based upon. And you know what? I've never seen Kornheiser in action. I have no idea what he's like. Probably never will. This is the same deal Dave's World had back in the '90's. Harry Anderson was supposed to be playing Dave Barry, the syndicated humor columnist. I doubt very much Anderson or the series captured Barry very well, as the series was more about the typical family sitcom experience than the kinds of things Barry regularly writes about. Yet I wouldn't have traded that series for the world. For one thing, it introduced us to Patrick Warburton.

Listen Up doesn't have a Patrick Warburton, at least not yet. The series focuses around Alexander as a family man whose daughter, as the pilot revolves around, is mortified by her father. Daniella Monet, as that daughter, was called upon to play second billing. She's not a comic find, but she does play the part well. Jason, meanwhile, is more in Bob Patterson mode than George Costanza, and what this means to me is that he's trying for just a bit more nuance in his performance. As my only reference into the Patterson mindset, that series' final episode placed Alexander into what amounted to a theater exchange, the very opposite of anything George would have ever done. This series seems to be taking the same approach. Most of the interaction Tony Kleinman (not to be confused with Kornheiser) has with his talk show cohost Malcolm Jamal-Warner centers around the kind of two-person, sitdown banter I remember from that Patterson exchange. They are not hamming it up. Well, they do when they get to scenes involving the actual talk show, but not to Costanza levels. But that's besides the point. You've got to imagine people would be watching that show for a reason, and most of the time these days it's because the host or hosts are bombastic spazzes.

Jason often speaks his lines almost as if he's embarrassed to be saying them. No, not in that sense. In the sense that he's aware that Kleinman's basic flaw is that he's conceited, and he realizes that. In real life, he's got to pull his punches, or be exasperated in the classic George Costanza mold. Why do I like this series so far? Because it knows what it is. A winning series always does. The question is, will there be an audience, will there ever be one, who will embrace Jason Alexander in a different role? That's this show's main roadblock, and it's already evident by the chilly reception from critics. Thankfully, it arrives on a night mostly populated by other comedic gems, Everybody Loves Raymond and Two and a Half Men. (The fourth show shall not be named. It's the Show-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named.) So it's got a better chance than most such attempts.

Tonight is the premiere of Lost. Woo! Speed's death Monday on CSI: Miami was moving. Best of luck to Rory in his future endeavors. Speaking of which, Time Magazine doesn't find Joey as hilarious as I do. It feels Matt LeBlanc's transplant has altered the character we remember so fondly from Friends. To which I say. Duh. Shouldn't sitcom characters have a chance to be semblances of real people? And what real people don't change in different company? Joey was usually the idiot in the pack of six because that was the easiest role to fill. He didn't need to pull off Chandler-esque lines because, well, Chandler was there to pull them off. New York Joey (or Joey: New York, for those CSI fans) had a lot less freedom than L.A. Joey, whose social sphere consists of his sister (at some point I hope someone mentions the elephant in the room, say the about dozen other sisters he has, including the one Chandler made out with, whichever one that was), and his nephew. It's a whole new dynamic. I hope he isn't the same guy. It'd be idiotic to just drag over the same characteristics. How could he carry a series? Who would take him seriously? And funny as they're supposed to be, sitcom characters also need to be taken seriously. It's what makes and breaks a series. Well, most of the time. Like the series above, this one might also depend on the transition from one series to another for its star.
And LeBlanc proves he's a star here.

...Damn comparisons...

And now to compare WWE Raw and Smackdown. :D Seriously, though, if The Rock is not currently scheduled to appear on Smackdown's fifth anniversary special this Thursday, could he at least surprise us? The show was named in his honor!

Raw, meanwhile, is going to have...yet...another...PPV, this one hitting Oct. 19, on a Tuesday, when Smackdown is usually taped. It's called Taboo Tuesday and will feature matches made by the fans. Hopefully Smackdown will get one of these at some point too, maybe when it gets some respect. Any respect will do. But Randy Orton is proving to be a scrapper, a constant hound for Evolution and Triple H, and he's got Chris Benoit and Shelton Benjamin to back him up. Besides that, Raw has wisely chosen to use Shawn Michaels in the ongoing Y2J-Christian feud. Very nice. And Kane has got his ongoing saga with Lita. The problem is Raw has nothing else going for it. Maybe that's the whole point of Taboo Tuesday, to give Raw a better sense of what the fans actually want. Hopefully what they want is for something fresh to happen, and by that I don't mean the umpteenth wrinkle in a current storyline. What Raw really needs to a shake-up, a few more stars to be relevant, even to lesser degrees. Raw has no notion of that. It's notion is to use La Resistance, or Maven, or Tajiri, or the Hurricane, randomly and to no cumulative importance, to pad out the program, much like the women's division, which constantly suffers from reiterative creative blah. How many tag team matches can these gals take?

As it looks now, Eddie Guerrero will be meeting Luthor Reigns at No Mercy. This is good news for Eddie, who's remaining far more relevant than Chris Benoit, whose an afterthought in the continuing Evolution domination (Eugene will be fighting Eric Bischoff Oct. 19; maybe this means they still remember him), and great news for Reigns. This guy might finally be starting to go somewhere, about ten times quicker than Batista. And he totally deserves it. JBL and Oz have added Viscera and Gangrel to their staff, which in effect turns the table all the way around on the Undertaker, after his Ministry years, the ones I least enjoyed him, even though it gave us Edge and Christian as well as the APA (not to mention Naked Mideon...come to think of it I probably shouldn't have mentioned it). Gangrel still has one of the best entrance themes in the business, the backword breathing and the drumbeat and all. Viscera was noticeably slow last Thursday, too. I don't expect at least him to be around that long. If this is the kind of stuff Smackdown can do in Raw's shadow, then I'm all for it.

There's a PPV and a house show coming in the weeks ahead. Those will probably be the next two entries in the Scouring Monk, and they come days apart. And as a parting word, folks, go out and watch Arrested Development, already, and while you're at it, Scrubs. These are the kind of shows that are innovating the supposedly stale sitcom model. But if nobody watches them, nobody will know. And shame on the Emmy's for overlooking the latter, yet again. Last night's episode was once again hilarious. Heather Graham is winning newfound respect from me for her guest stint.

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