Wednesday, February 25, 2009

GLEE YOU NEXT TUESDAY!



On Monday evening I had the privilege of watching the pilot for the upcoming Fox series, Glee. Created by Ryan Murphy of Nip/Tuck (a Parents Television Council favorite!) fame - this time he's taking on the world of high school Glee Clubs. As should be expected by now, he adds his signature snark and heart (in equal measure) to this musical comedy.

Let me start off by saying that I fell in love with Glee long before the actual "musical" numbers even started. I've never seen Popular, but I can tell that Ryan Murphy either had a fantastic time in high school...or it was a living hell from which he draws endless amounts of inspiration. Unlike Nip/Tuck, the world of Glee is a little more grounded in reality. A little. There aren't any flaming meth-heads falling out of windows or faux-lesbians getting shot in the face by nympho teenagers, but the reality of this show is definitely (and subtly) stylistically heightened. And it works very, very well.



The cast is downright perfect. When you can brag that you've got Jane Lynch in a supporting role ordering around cheerleaders, you know things are going to be a-okay. Spanish teacher Will Scheuster (Matthew Morrison) is the easy-on-the-eyes lead trying to re-capture his glory days (inspiring, not pathetic) by taking over the school's Glee Club...quite the rag-tag group. To make matters worse, all the school's money goes to fund the "Cheer-ios", led by the aforementioned magnificent Jane Lynch. OMG, will Mr. Scheuster's gang - known as "New Directions" make it to nationals? Of course! Will I still watch every week just to make sure? Without a doubt.



As not to reveal too much more (trust me, it unfolds perfectly), I'll skip a full summary of the episode. As a trade-off, here are some bullet-pointy thoughts:
  • The core group of students has a sassy black girl, an Asian lesbian, a wheelchair dork, a prissy gay, an insufferable girlie-girl and a sensitive jock. All the stereotypes work, don't worry!
  • "If you can't fold a fitted sheet, you can't work at Sheets-N-Things."
  • I will watch Jayma Mays in anything.
  • Imagine if High School Musical was real, bitchy and hilarious. And their musical numbers made sense.
  • Miley Cyrus' boy bitch Justin Gaston plays a jock and has no lines...the way the Gods intended.
  • The pilot's musical numbers include songs by KC & The Sunshine Band, Amy Winehouse and Journey.
  • "These days, being anonymous is worse than being poor."
  • I was almost in tears by the end.
Fox has already ordered 13 episodes, and is even giving it a post-American Idol time slot. This speaks volumes about their faith in the project, especially when you consider that other new series I might mention (cough, Dollhouse, cough) have already been sent to Friday nights. Where shows both good and bad go to die premature, unseen deaths.



Overall, Glee takes the well-worn thematic elements of high school and necessarily corrupts them. After all - once enough time has gone by, everyone tends to be remembered in a more exaggerated light. That's what makes the heightened reality so believable. We knew some of these people...their personalities just weren't as amplified back then.
The characters in this show have a passion not for what they do, but for who they are. This is the concept that the wit, edginess and bite clear the way for, without presenting it in a cutesy, "be yourself" kind of way. And yes, the musical numbers were so good I was short of breath. Can't wait for more, Mr. Murphy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

P.S. YOU'RE GOING TO DIE ALONE

Jeez, Target. 'Meals For One'? Way to be brutally honest. And your commercials are always so upbeat! I bought a family-size bag of chicken tenders in protest, FYI.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

[DELETED BY AUTHORITY OF THE GOVERNOR]



HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RUE MCCLANAHAN!

Today truly is a glorious day. On this day in 1934, the illustrious Rue McClanahan was brought into this world. While she has done many things before and since, it is her portrayal of one Blanche Devereaux from The Golden Girls that won her a place in my heart...and that of many, many others around the world.

Blanche was vain, egotistical and somewhat of a tramp - but at the same time showed an immense capacity for love. Rue took the character further than even the show's writers and creator could have scarcely imagined, and made it work week after week and season after season.



It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Blanche has always been my favorite "girl". My adoration and appreciation for the South (despite growing up a Yankee), combined with my love for mirrors and myself...well, it's just always been Blanche. Even from those early days of watching The Golden Girls with my grandmother and godmother - I was laughing and I was loving it, even if I didn't understand entirely what was happening.



Since those marvelous days in the 80s I have become a full-fledged super-fan, of course. I even had the overwhelming privilege of attending the release party for the first season on DVD at the Museum of Television & Radio in Beverly Hills (now called the Paley Center For Media) in 2004, which Rue, Bea and Betty all attended. I didn't get a chance to meet Ms. McClanahan, but I did get to briefly chat with - and hug - Betty White. It was a warm and tingly experience.


Ravishing Rue certainly hasn't settled into retirement, either. From guest-starring roles on numerous TV shows, to the publication of her memoirs, "My First Five Husbands...And The Ones Who Got Away", to her Broadway performance in Wicked and to her public support of everyone from the gays, animals and her lifelong devotion to the Democratic Party - Rue McClanahan is a living legend. And even though Rose wasn't able to figure out Blanche's age on The Golden Girls (hence the title of the post), I think Rue should be proud of all she's done in her 75 years on Earth. I'll leave you with a quote from the lady herself, speaking out on one of the most common questions she receives:

"And when people ask me if I'm like Blanche, my standard answer is, just look at the facts: Blanche is a man-crazy, glamorous, extremely sexy Southern belle from Atlanta. And I'm not from Atlanta."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

MOMMY, WHERE DO CYLONS COME FROM?



Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Before I get into the kitchen to prepare a romantic dinner (there's ground beef involved), I wanted to take this opportunity to address the information overload that was last night's Battlestar Galactica. Many, many questions were answered...mostly regarding the origins of the Cylons. Tons more questions were raised of course, but it was quite a payoff for long-time viewers. What better day than Valentine's Day to recap this episode's brilliant intro. You see, when two Cylons really love each other...

























Thursday, February 12, 2009

INFINITELY YOURS



It's difficult for me to fully explain why I love Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist as much as I do. I guess it's because after watching it several times now, it continues to simply make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. It just makes me really happy.

Set in New York City over the course of one chaotic evening, the overall story is of two magically (not tragically) hip high school students and their respective sidekicks trying to find the "rarest show on earth": an after hours show by everyone's favorite band 'Where's Fluffy' (or simply 'Fluffy' for short). What unfolds is nothing short of a crash course in true love.


Nick (Michael Cera) is heartbroken and morose after being dumped by his heinous cunt of a girlfriend after 6 months. He's also the lone hetero in a gay punk band called - at various times throughout the film - "The Jerk Offs", "Shit Sandwich", "Dick Ache" and "Fistful of Assholes". His bandmates Dev and Thom are sick of his brooding nonsense, and convince him to leave Hoboken for a gig in the city...and eventually to find Fluffy.


Norah (Kat Dennings) and her party girl BFF Caroline hear about the super secret Fluffy show after Tris (Nick's ex) discards yet another mix CD he's made for her. Norah's never met Nick, and knows only that the guy who made Road To Closure: Volume 12 is a "poor bastard".




What makes this setup so perfect is that these characters are in love before they even meet. They're already involved in each other's lives without even knowing it. Nick is the latest victim of Norah's frenemy Tris, but all she knows about him is that they're probably musical soul mates. When they finally meet, Norah's simply trying to shut Tris up by making out with her "boyfriend" - an unsuspecting Nick, for whom she's actually doing a huge serendipitous favor. Caroline naturally gets annihilated and needs help getting home, so the gays do Nick a solid and volunteer...giving our hero and heroine a chance to get to know one another. From that moment on, their lives will never be the same.



One thing I love is that the film shows us that the course of true love is generally not smooth. For all intents and purposes, N&N are meeting and falling in love for the first time. Add into the equation that it's all happening over a matter of hours, and it just makes sense. They have all the fights, tender moments and emotional revelations in approximately 8 hours that most couples have over their first few weeks.

The focus shifts temporarily midway to locating a very drunk and barely coherent Caroline somewhere in Manhattan, after the gays inadvertently "lose" her. Luckily Norah knows the poor gal's puking haunts and the adventure continues.

As I watched these unstereotypical, earnest characters make tracks all over the five boroughs, I was amazed at how easy they made it seem. This was perhaps the first movie I've seen that made New York City seem so accessible. Other so-called love letters to NYC usually involve locales that everyday people could scarcely dream of seeing (I'm looking at you, Sex and the City), but N&N and Company make it seem effortless without seeming pretentious. It helps prove the point even more that our titular characters don't drink or do drugs - they just feel right at home in New York City as a neighborhood…not a metropolis.



Caroline (Ari Graynor) steals just about every scene she’s in. Apparently to prepare for the role, Graynor videotaped herself getting trashed in her apartment a bunch of times. This explains SO MUCH. Her performance as a drunken mess was almost a little too realistic, but at the same time overwhelmingly endearing. Not to mention absolutely fucking hysterical.


I think many people overlooked the film due to its pre-defined stigma: it's based on a novel written for young adults. But it's so much more than a "teen romance". Assigning this genre label to a film of this caliber makes me as uncomfortable as watching Andy Samberg - in a cameo as a homeless man - ask Nick if he's ever had sex with a dog ("Don't do it, man. It's not worth it!").


What people would have found if they had given Nick & Norah a chance are the compare-and-contrast differences between young love and real love. Nick's relationship with Tris is portrayed as epic, despite the reality of it only lasting 6 months...during which time Tris was constantly unfaithful. Norah's on-again, off-again ex-boyfriend Tal is only charming her to get to her record-executive father. The quickly budding relationship between Nick and Norah, however...it just rings true. They relate to each other in honest, fundamental ways - usually stemming from their shared love of music.




After all the fuss, food, fighting and fingering – is Where’s Fluffy really worth our characters’ trouble? Herein lies the brilliance. Since not so much as a note of music from the band is ever actually heard, the viewer can draw their own conclusions. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the rest of the music featured in the film – but you will – all you need to know about Where’s Fluffy is that they’re the best. They’re your favorite band, and you’d do anything to see them live. That’s the motivation.


In the end, this movie is about the simplicity of love in a world full of complications. Nick’s friend Thom describes it perfectly, while talking about The Beatles. Their first single was “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, and that’s what it’s all about. Sometimes the truest, simplest love is like a reward at the end of one crazy night - it’s worth whatever you had to do to find it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

THE SUPER BOWL HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL WORKOUT DIET©



Touchdowns! End zones! Half-time! Tackling! There you have it: all I know about football, really. Nevertheless, the Super Bowl only comes but once a year. Here in West Hollywood, even the most unofficial "holidays" are reason enough to celebrate. Since I started early by getting slightly obliterated on both Friday and Saturday night, I decided that today I would burn off the booze and work on my fitness. And what an afternoon at the gym it was!

It was while at Crunch - armed with my iPod / friend Charmaine - that I came up with a quick 2-tiered exercise / healthy eating program that not only kept me motivated, but also distracted me from the woman in her late 50s who was literally bending over backwards across one of those giant fitness balls. Not a pretty sight...and yes, I was jealous. It's The Super Bowl High School Musical Workout Diet©! Don't worry, it's easier than it sounds!


It's 100% cardio, and it's all on the treadmill (but could also be adapted for elliptical, if you prefer). Select a slower speed with little or no incline to start, and increase both with every song:

What Time Is It (HSM2)
Now Or Never (HSM3:SY)
Get'cha Head In The Game (HSM)
We're All In This Together (HSM)
All For One (HSM2)
High School Musical (HSM3:SY)

Once you've gotten through all the songs, you'll have completed 22.2 minutes on the treadmill! Don't forget to cool down before dismounting. I recommend a good steam post-workout and pre-shower to relax the muscles.



After leaving the gym feeling refreshed and energized, I popped down to Starbucks for an iced black tea and headed home to prepare myself a healthy meal. In less than 20 minutes I was enjoying a delicious Kung Pao Chicken Stir Fry from Trader Joe's. I only used half of the Kung Pao sauce to cut the calories, which had the pleasant side effect of not overpowering the flavor of the vegetables.

So there you have it - The Super Bowl High School Musical Workout Diet©! As a sidenote,
I think it's criminal that Disney chose to cut the Zac-Efron-showering scene from High School Musical 3: Senior Year. Seems like bad business to me. Anyhoo, I hope this lays to rest any ideas you may have had about me being sane. Happy Super Bowl everyone! Go team!