Glee: Join the club

I am really glad that GLEE is on the air, and that Fox has picked up the back nine, giving it a full season of 22 episodes. 

cast of Glee

Glee cast

GLEE is generating a lot of buzz and good ratings (last week’s episode ruled the demos in teens, adults, men and women for the 9 o’clock hour), but there also seems to be a lot of confusion about what the show is. People who have never seen an episode have dismissed it as a riff on the HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL tween flicks. Um, no. Although GLEE is set in high school and there is singing, the execution is entirely different. The stories are raunchy, and touch on the ugliness of real high school issues like the dark side of popularity,  and sexual and religious identity. Sure, the cast looks politically correct (Name another show that features a guy using a wheelchair, as well as ethnic minorities), but the way they are treated is so not PC. Artie’s (Kevin McHale) wheelchair was wedged into a portable toilet by “pranksters.” And there is a real undertone of sadness and resignation to Finn and Quinn’s pregnancy storyline. Both kids are genuinely frightened that they have ruined their once-promising lives already. (This is especially poignant in Finn’s case, since he’s…well, watch it and find out.) 
I thought this week’s episode, in which cool kids Finn (Cory Monteith) and Quinn (Dianna Agron) were knocked to the bottom of the social totem pole, was a microcosm of the show and the way it is perceived. When Finn was known solely as the quarterback of the football team, he was hailed as a god. (It didn’t matter that the squad was bloody terrible.) But when his involvement with glee club was exposed, suddenly he was branded as less than manly, and subjected to sexual slurs and assaulted with slushies by ignorant people who feel threatened by glee club. Look at the online hate directed at GLEE and its fans — a lot of it is childish slurs about the imagined sexual preferences of its devotees. Maybe the whole world really is high school… 

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Melrose (same old) Place

It looks like last night was my last time watching the rebooted MELROSE PLACE, because the clichés are so overwhelming that it feels like I’ve already seen it all before.

Melrose cast

Melrose Place

Let’s start where the show did, with Riley’s fashion shoot. Designer Anton V. supposedly chose Riley as the…er, face of his his jeans because she’s real” and “not a model,” but then he dispatched her to a photo shoot where she was given the standard overblown hair, makeup and wardrobe that transformed her into somebody who was indistinguishable from a “real” model. Instead of a teacher with finger paint on her shabby dress, Riley looked just as plastic and fake and generic as any other jeans model on the planet. Anton completely sabotaged his own campaign. And what about that shoot?  “Photojournalist” Jo Reynolds (the returning Daphne Zuniga) was booked as the photographer, but even as Riley gushed about Jo’s soulful images from Darfur, Jo was shooting bland, windswept pictures of Riley that looked, yes, exactly the same as every other jeans ad ever.  “You’re a real woman!” Jo shouted. Or at least, the kind of real woman who hangs out topless at the beach. When a half-naked Riley bristled at Jo’s facile manipulation and stormed off the set, it proved Riley had really big…principles! We’ve seen it all before, so why bother?
Perhaps Riley’s plot was a cliché for the same reason that her fiancé, Jonah, was dispatched to the famous Paramount Pictures lot to meet a megaproducer Andy, who was talking to “Johnny” (Ooooh! “Johnny Depp”? The Johnny Depp?) on  his  cell, and dropping the name “Leo” (As in “DiCaprio,” maybe?). Of course Andy told Jonah he loves everything about his film — and only wants to completely change everything! Cliché, cliché, cliché. Why, it’s just like ENTOURAGE! Oh, those Hollywood types are all the same!
Which is the problem. Everything about this MP is more of the same.  Apparently the-powers-that-be are banking on the target audience of preteen girls being so young they have no frame of reference for a nighttime soap beyond 90210, GOSSIP GIRL and THE VAMPIRE DIARIES. Well, the legendary newspaperman H.L. Mencken famously noted, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” (He didn’t know from Nielsen ratings, though…)
Finally, I leave you with the laugh line of the night, courtesy of Colin Egglesfield‘s Auggie: “Riley, I don’t know if you know this, but it’s kind of impossible to hate you.” Uh, no, it’s not. It’s actually quite easy to hate Riley. And her little show, too. 

Stargate Universe 1.4: Mad Man

With each successive episode of STARGATE UNIVERSE, I like the abrasive characters more and more.


Dr. Rush

Dr. Rush

This week’s episode gave us a closer look at perhaps the most abrasive, Dr. Nicholas Rush, who appears to be a literal mad scientist. Robert Carlyle is best known on U.S. shores for starring in The Full Monty, but I last saw him in the horror sequel 28 Weeks Later, in which he also played a character that was difficult to like. But nothing like Dr. Rush. While the rest of the crew stranded on Destiny tried to joke about their terrible predicament – witness the cracks about Eli’s and Scott’s personal hygiene – Rush was rushing about, snapping at people.  He even threw Riley up against a wall for daring to “interrupt” his work. Col. Young is willing to try to work with Rush, but Rush acts like every word he is forced to share with someone else costs him in blood or life-force. Rush recognized the cascading power failures are a dire threat, but he could not be bothered to explain it to the others, who thought the blackouts were just annoying. Rush thinks that if no one else can understand the scope of a problem, they should at least accept his assessment without question.  After all, if the great Dr. Nicholas Rush thinks it’s important, then it is important. Volker, the astrophysicist, tried to help, but Rush shouted him down and belittled him like a child. I think the key to Rush was encapsulated in his rant to Young, in which he charged: “It was your reckless, pointless attempt to dial Earth that robbed me of the time I needed to solve this problem!” There it is: Rush is   personally offended by all the others acting as if they might save the day. This should be his moment. After all, as he also pointed out, “I’m the only qualified person!” But then he passed out due to the combination of stress and caffeine/nicotine withdrawal, so… so much for that super brain. What a guy!

For me, it’s a toss-up between Rush and MIT-dropout Eli (more on him later) for favorite-character honors.

Ch-ch-ch-changes…Yet the song remains the same

Welcome to my new WP blog. You may recall me from my blog at JoeXoth. I’m still the same Joe, only the address has changed. From now on, you will see new posts here, not there. I have changed the theme to help differentiate between the blogs, as well.

I’m glad you’re here. I hope you will stick around.

Soap Opera Weekly: 9/30/09

It’s a good thing that AS THE WORLD TURNS’ Janet has volunteered to adopt Liberty’s baby, because there may be more unsuitable parental units than Paul and Emily, but I’m having trouble imagining who. Neither Paul nor Em is known for sound, responsible — or even rational — decisions (hooking, anyone?), but Paul’s history with children is particularly heinous. Can you imagine how extensively he had to lie on that adoption application to avoid being dismissed out of hand? The adoption agency must be well out of town to not have heard about Paul, the amazing dead/alive serial babynapper.

Liberty wanted Parker to attend the session to hear his opinions and, lo and behold, she actually asked him for his impressions of Paul and Emily, and listened to him. Okay, so Parker does not have the whole story about Paul, and his perceptions were understandably colored by Paul’s friendship during that period when Carly fled the country with Simon. But he knew about Eliza being kidnapped by her loopy dad, and expressed concerns about it. However, he also should have tried to pin Emily down about Daniel, the son no one ever sees anymore. Parker would most likely know that Danny has been warehoused at boarding school, and with his own brother J.J. similarly off the canvas,

Viewers could sense that Liberty was going to make the soft-hearted (wrong) decision, but at least it came out of her character. Liberty noted how she hates talking about embarrassing developments in her own life, and was painfully reluctant to grill Emily about her past indiscretions — even though those “mistakes” included major felonies like kidnapping and attempted murder. But that’s Liberty; she’s full of empathy. Paul and Em, however, are full of…er, B.S.

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Soap Opera Weekly: 9/25/09

Maxie’s dream — make that nightmare — of domestic life after marriage on Friday’s GENERAL HOSPITAL was hilarious. Everything made sense as exaggerated versions of her own fears and the criticisms of others. The specter of Spinelli morphing into a stone-cold mobster has kept Mac up nights. “Men of danger don’t cave in the face of nagging wives,” DreamSpinelli snarked while the children screamed and a stark-raving-mad Mac babbled. There was more than just Maxie’s professional jealousy in the vision of Lulu becoming a fashion mogul; there was also personal jealousy, since Spinelli used to crush on “the original Blonde One.” So it was only natural to envision being replaced by her in the fashion world — and in the Jackal’s heart. Only one note rang false: Would fashionista Maxie really dress so shabbily? Then again, that was probably the point…she would be that far removed from her true self.

After Maxie woke up, she addressed Felicia’s absence by noting that she convinced herself it was better to not even contact. Maxie also acknowledged late sister Georgie’s love for Spinelli. The Jackal himself explained why his grandmother was skipping the nuptials: She used a bingo outing as a transparent excuse to avoid a union she did not believe would last. Poor Damien.

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Soap Opera Weekly: 9/23/09

I promise, AS THE WORLD TURNS, I really am trying to suspend my disbelief for the story of Holden being imprisoned by Eb and Maeve in Kentucky. But the contrived circumstances just keep getting in the way.

The less said about the cardboard Eb, the better. He’s written as a lazy stereotype-cum-boogeyman. Hit him with a shovel, he just keeps coming! And the way Lily, Luke, Damian and co. have been coming to Kentucky in the blink of an eye, the entire state might as well be a suburb of Chicago. Holden had numerous chances to disarm Eb, escape or even just cry out when a trooper came to the door. But no — time and again Holden made boneheaded choices that resulted in his quick recapture. (Note to Holden: Next time, take the gun with you!)

The Kentucky state troopers can’t even find a local accent, let alone any bodies, evidence or suspects. Remember how they let the wreckage of Holden’s vehicle burn at the foot of the cliff forever (apparently all the firefighters were otherwise engaged.) And when Damian refused treatment for his gunshot wound today, the EMTs packed up and walked away — leaving Mr. Grimaldi perched on their gurney. (Good luck getting your security deposit back without that, boys!) Time and again, Damian — a non-relative — was given confidential information. This is exactly the reason why privacy laws exist.

I know budget concerns preclude casting a crowd of emergency workers and elaborate sets, but clever writing can be accomplished on a budget without selling out believability.

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Soap Opera Weekly: 9/22/09

Can anyone think of a reason why Nathan Fillion is not one of the biggest stars around? His star vehicle, CASTLE, owes its success entirely to his lead character. This is basically, “MURDER, HE WROTE,” but Fillion (ex-Joey, ONE LIFE TO LIVE) is so charming that the premise doesn’t really matter; it’s just an excuse for Fillion (ex-Mal, FIREFLY) to smirk and deliver the show’s best one-liners. Sure, co-star Stana Katic (ex-Hana, HEROES) gets in her licks as Detective Beckett, and the able supporting cast (including GENERAL HOSPITAL’s former Ian Devlin, Seamus Dever)…er, supports ably, but it’s still Nathan’s show. Take this line from last night’s second-season premiere: Upon discovering a corpse with all its internal organs carved out, Castle declared, “Somebody hated his guts.” Okay, so it’s not a gut-buster or even shockingly original, but it’s damn funny and Fillion delivered it with aplomb. The killer turned out to be… ah, nobody really cares. This series isn’t about the hunt for a killer, it’s about the people hunting for a killer. And the chemistry between Fillion and Molly C. Quinn, who plays Castle’s daughter, Alexis, is fantastic (even if Alexis is just a little too perfect to be believed).

Killing and mayhem and fathers and daughters all figured into the fourth-season premiere of HEROES last night, as well. But most of it was far less compelling than on CASTLE. I love watching Hayden Panettiere and Jack Coleman play out the Claire/Noah father/daughter dynamic. And it was funny that Claire’s roommate from hell was played by a fellow soap vet, DAYS OF OUR LIVES’ Rachel Melvin. I know Claire will get along much better with Gretchen, played by Madeline Zima (Mia, CALIFORNICATION). It was a little hard to judge where the season will go from here because the two-hour block was dedicated to setting the stage for what’s to come. But Robert Knepper (ex-T-bag, PRISON BREAK) has the potential to turn Sam Sullivan into a classic villain. I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude with HEROES — as in, I’m waiting to see what the deal is with that freaky tattoo ink…

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Soap Opera Weekly: 9/18/09

Today saw the final installment of GUIDING LIGHT, and while I’m sure many others will pen far more eloquent eulogies, I can contribute a small personal note about what GL has meant to me professionally. Back when she was playing GL’s Marah, Lindsey McKeon was the very first soap opera actress I ever interviewed. I remember that she was quite charming, and I got a nice feature piece out of it — as long as I remembered to spell Lindsey with an “E.” She popped up a few months ago in prime-time, on SUPERNATURAL, so talking to me did not ruin her entire career!

All these many years later, I was charmed by the (tragic) happy ending to GL’s 72-year saga. It was a brave choice to give everyone a happy ending. Yes, even Alan’s death turned out to be all for the best. I can’t help thinking that the blustery cigar aficionado would have loved ending up as a pile of ashes. I was most happy to see Josh and Reva wind up together. Sure, Jeffrey was left in limbo, but I like to think of him out there somewhere, endlessly pursuing Edmund; happy in his own way. But not as happy as the denizens of Springfield. Rick saved a patient — and got the girl!

While I join all GL fans in mourning the passing of a historic series that practically defined “soap opera,” at least it was a good end. I could take a page from Dylan Thomas and “rage, rage against the dying of the light,” but I am at peace with letting GL “go gentle into that good night.”

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Soap Opera Weekly: 9/16/09

With GUIDING LIGHT getting the (deserved) lion’s share of attention this week, let’s not forget the other good shows still on the air. Take today’s AS THE WORLD TURNS, for example. The script absolutely crackled with great, witty dialogue, and the actors rose to the challenge.

The key event was Faith walking in on Lily and Damian in the afterglow of making love. The child was fairly traumatized! When Luke called his mother on the carpet for sleeping with his biological father, Lily’s first instinct was to wail, “I should have locked the door!” How hilariously, and inappropriately, appropriate. (Remember, there are no locks on doors in Soapland) Damian got his, too, when Meg cracked him across the cheek. “Was Holden’s side of the bed still warm?” she hissed. Way to go Meg. She made him feel dirty for what he did; you could see it on Paolo Seganti‘s face.

To Lily’s credit, she faced the children and tried to explain — but how could she, when Faith stomped off, screaming, “I’ll hate you for the rest of my life!” Ashley Marie Greiner delivered Faith’s fantastic, snarky lines with aplomb. Meanwhile, Noelle Beck and Van Hansis were working overtime to make viewers feel Lily’s pain and Luke’s confused, protective rage.

When Lily claimed to be “only human,” Luke raged, “Mom, that is so lame!” But this episode wasn’t! Displaced GL viewers should consider moving to Oakdale…

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