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Wednesday, Jun 3, 2009
Jon and Kate Plus Eight has never been more compelling -- but that's not necessarily a good thing.

Jon and Kate Plus Eight used to be the kind of show you could watch without really watching.


After mastering the basics—Pennsylvania parents Jon and Kate Gosselin had twins and then, hoping for just one more, ended up with sextuplets—the rest of the show passed in a blur of cuteness and crocodile tears. Toss in a few infidelity rumors, however, and suddenly you’ve got must-see TV.


As hard as it was to watch last week’s season premiere, it was just as hard to look away. At their best, Jon and Kate never seemed to be the most loving couple in the world but now they’re absolutely frigid. They abandoned tag-team confessionals for solo appearances on the Couch of Exposition. In between awkward silences, Jon and Kate worked their way through at least a few of the twelve stages of grief over their shattered relationship.


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Wednesday, May 20, 2009
One of the greatest examples of character evolution in a television series is Brock Samson, from Jackson Publick’s The Venture Bros.

I believe it was Neil Gaiman who suggested that writing serialized fiction is like jumping out of an airplane with a needle and thread and hoping you’ll have sewn a parachute before you hit the ground. Certainly there’s always been something of a slapdash, catch-as-catch-can, make-it-up-as-we-go-along feel to even the smartest and most ambitious of long-running television serials (Lost and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)


This reckless approach lends TV series (and some comic book series) a thrilling, anything-can-happen sort of spontaneity, but it also exposes the seams at times. (Fans rightly dismissed Spike’s attempt to rape Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s seventh season as a transparent bid by the show’s writers to remind the audience that Spike was evil, after having slowly neutered him over the course of three seasons.)


What I find most intriguing and satisfying about extended serial fiction is that it is uniquely equipped to reveal the startling extent to which a character can change over the course of time; while your average film might devote two hours to a given character’s narrative arc, Angel gave us five seasons to marvel at its title character as he struggled his way through 20-some episodes at a go. Removing commercials, each ostensibly hour-long entry offered perhaps 40 minutes of real story, but even then, you’re looking at a narrative which lasts well over 70 hours; a talented writer can do a lot with a character in 70 hours.


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Monday, May 18, 2009

As the hilariously narcissistic Jenna Maroney on NBC’s 30 Rock, Jane Krakowski has established herself as a formidable comic talent, gladly stealing scenes from comedic heavyweights Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin. In a musically star-studded May 14 season finale, this season has allowed Jane to showcase her Tony award winning singing talent, most notably as a Janis Joplin knockoff in one of the show’s funniest plotlines to date.  Whether she’s juggling her Broadway career (winning raves for her role as Lola in last year’s Damn Yankees) or perfecting the art of lovable egomania on 30 Rock, Krakowski is constantly on. Jane’s latest creative outlet is the world of webisodes for Breyers new Smooth and Dreamy ice cream. In these mini movies, Jane finds herself playing opposite Clark Gable in a wacked out retelling of Gone with the Wind, and will soon star opposite King Kong, bringing her own unique comic timing and sensibility to the role made famous by Fay Wray. I spoke with Jane in a recent video interview about balancing all her projects, and how 30 Rock is really the perfect way to showcase all her talents.


 



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Monday, May 18, 2009
Prison Break wrapped up its fourth and final season on Friday. Here's what happened for those of you who tuned out long ago from one of television's most entertaining (and definitely its most ridiculous) action shows.

Prison Break is over. Three seasons after Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) successfully broke his falsely accused brother Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) out of Fox River Penitentiary, and two seasons after creators originally intended the show to end, it’s done. Well, mostly. Word is that they’ve cooked up one more two-hour special that takes place between the end of the last episode and it’s “4 Years Later” epilogue. But for all intents and purposes, the show wrapped up on Friday night.


Some people have complained that the show lost its momentum in the second season, as the characters got out of prison and separated. Others thought it jumped the shark in the third season, when most of the characters ended up in another prison, this time in Panama. “It got completely ridiculous!” they shout. I submit that the show was always completely ridiculous and that they’re remembering season one through rose-colored glasses. Look, I’ll admit that the twist at the end of season two that put them back in prison was over-the-top silly, but that was the point where I decided to mostly stop worrying about the logic of the show and just enjoy the twisty thrills it provided on a week-to-week basis. Clearly they had to come up with something when Fox renewed the show past the second season, so they completely embraced the pulp fiction/1940s movie serial-style action that was always bubbling under the surface. Prison Break always packed in the thrills and suspense, and they always knew when to ratchet up the action. This kept the show as an exciting guilty pleasure even when it bent over backwards with the twists.


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Thursday, May 14, 2009
Adam Lambert may have all the buzz, but there's just something about underdog Kris Allen.

Channel Surfing readers: you owe me. I haven’t watched an entire American Idol results show in years, but last night I suffered through it in order to properly weigh in on next week’s Final Two showdown.


I hate the results shows. They represent everything loathsome about American Idol: excruciating chatter by the judges; shameless product placements for Ford and Coke; and Ryan Seacrest torturing the contestants by dragging out the two minutes we actually care about—who stays and who goes home.


But never have I had so much invested in the next American Idol. No I’m not talking about the debate over Adam Lambert’s sexuality or Danny Gokey’s personality flaws. I like Adam and dislike Danny but the contestant I really cared about this season was underdog Kris Allen.


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