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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Our Ideal American Idol Top 12

Before America ruins it and they announce the top 12 tonight, we will list the 12 we would want to see.

1. Casey Abrams
2. Naima Adedapo
3. Lauren Alaina
4. Jovany Barreto
5. Kendra Chantelle
6. James Durbin
7. Brett Loewenstern (Ern caved. He's fun.)
8. Jacob Lusk
9. Robbie Rosen
10. Pia Toscano
11. Lauren Turner
12. Rachel Zevita

Feel free to argue with us in the comments. Leeard wanted to include Paul McDonald on this list, but Ern would not let her, because he just sounds like a crack-headed James Blunt. Leeard does not disagree with that, but still thinks he's amazing. We both harbour a dislike for Thia Megia.

After the top 12 is announced, we will be covering American Idol episodes in more detail, because that show is inherently funny and cries out for commentary.

Modern Family - Two Monkeys and a Panda review

Jay and Gloria shopped for a family burial plot, and Jay had to face his fears of his dying way before Gloria, as would likely happen. He was afraid she would marry another man who would turn out to be the real love of her life. Manny reassured him, hilariously. This plot sounds like a downer, but Modern Family isn’t a comedy like Scrubs that will ever bring tears to your eyes as well as laugh lines. Modern Family keeps everything really light.

Cam was trying to get Lily to have positive connotations with the word “adopted” to prepare her for the time when they explain to her what it means. Cam looked at Lily’s birth certificate and found out that there was no hyphen between his and Mitchell’s last names. Cam’s last name was Lily’s middle name. Cam was distraught to hear that Mitchell had done it on purpose, because he was afraid Cam would get cold feet and leave the family after the adoption (hilarious flashbacks ensued). Mitchell apologized and acknowledged what an unexpectedly good and brave parent Cam had become. They wrote a children’s book for Lily together.

The least serious plot of the night involved Haley and Alex. Alex borrowed Haley’s favorite sweater, and Haley was certain that Alex would ruin it. Claire encouraged the girls to share. The sweater got ripped, and Claire had to run around town looking for a replacement. That didn’t work out so well. Since she was busy, it was up to Phil to take advantage of a spa gift certificate that expired soon. Phil got some accurate marriage advice from the women there on supporting his wife in her stressful moments, rather than telling her how she can fix it. Amen. He managed to put his new skills to use but was offended when Claire didn’t notice anything different about him after he had spent all day at the spa.

The plots were strong in this episode. Not too over-the-top. There weren’t as many good one-liners as usual though. No outloud laughs this week. Just some smiles. Not much else to say this week. This show is getting really repetitive lately. It's funny, but it always feels like a repeat.

Episode Grade: B

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Big Love All Seasons Review

Since the jig is up regarding who has been marathoning Big Love for the past couple of weeks, this blogger will write this post in the first person. This post is the culmination of that marathon. I have obviously not mentioned all characters and subplots on this show, because it's such a tangled web of drama that it would take forever. Enjoy.

Season One
The first season introduced an atypical family, consisting of husband Bill and three very different wives, Barb, Nicki, and Margene. Together, they have seven biological children. Barb is the oldest, a lifelong Mormon with doubts about polygamy. Nicki is the manipulative, secretive, stodgy fundamentalist of the group. Margene is young, and both Barb and Nicki look down on her. We do too, in the first season, because her character is sweet, but one-sided and immature at this time. They are keeping their polygamous lifestyle a secret, trying to get along and raise the family, and trying to succeed in business to stay afloat and prosperous. Bill has a long-running feud with Nicki’s father, the “prophet” of a polygamous compound, Roman Grant. Bill grew up on the compound but was tossed out during his teen years. Roman thinks he is entitled to a share of Bill’s profits (a tithe). Also living on the compound is Bill’s younger brother, Joey, and Joey’s crazy wife, Wanda. Bill and Joey conspire to gain a seat on Roman’s church’s board of directors, so they can have some say. Hyjinks occur, with Wanda poisoning Roman’s son and Barb getting outted as a polygamist at an important community event.

This season was a little hard to get into, because polygamy is gross. Also, Margene was annoying and the show wasted the Nicki character by having her spend most of her time struggling with secret credit card debt. The consequences of that storyline were minimal and not worth all the attention spent on it. Nicki was my favorite character from the start though, and she remains my favorite character. She is arguably the least wanted of the wives by Bill (supposedly traded to him for a loan, according to Roman’s son). She is the most damaged and coldest of the wives. But you can also see that she has a heart. She’s the most interesting, and her character could go anywhere at any time. The actress is amazing in her role and deserved the Golden Globe. This show could just go into a spin-off called “Nicki” and I would be perfectly happy.

What was strong about the season? Bill and Barb’s daughter, Sarah, played by Amana Seyfried. She came across as intelligent and relatable and was an anchor the show needed at the time. Also, after coming across people who are similar to Roman (toned-down versions of course), I’ve seen the effect of religious rhetoric, influence, and intimidation used to wrangle others, so I identified with Bill early on where others might not. The way that Roman saw Bill as a threat from a young age is particularly interesting. While many people think Bill is arrogant, lustful, and gross (and he totally is), I liked his strength and struggle to just break free from Roman and the dysfunctional, abusive compound. It was interesting to see Bill’s potential to either become a self-righteous jerk with control issues contrasted with his potential to become a protector of weaker people and a dynamic force against the status quo of fundamentalism. The character has continued to walk that line between the two fates.

The show won me over in episode 10, the baptism episode. The first nine episodes presented the family as dodgy and unworkable but then spun it around to show us the other side in episode ten. By the baptism episode, the show had all the family members sticking up for each other and they sneakily crept into my heart. And that’s where it got interesting (when it started to show both sides of the argument). It contrasted the idea of freedom for consenting adults to do whatever they want with the abuses polygamy can wreak. There is love in the family, yes, but the show also asserts (more in later seasons) that it’s just an excuse for sleeping around while still getting to think of yourself as holy. The show is surprisingly fair to nearly everyone.
Season one grade: B

Season two
It was by this season that the show’s main message really started to sink in. It’s brilliant, really. Everyone is wondering and asking, “Does the show support or condemn polygamy?” Sorry to disagree with Nicki actress Chloe Sevigny, who thinks the show supports it, but I think the show is even on both sides. The message the show sneaks by is one of general tolerance. It takes something that just about everyone disapproves of and makes you look at every side of it, and then it shows other people in the community ridiculing these people who, while not perfect, are doing their best. When these people are shunned and persecuted, you feel really bad for them. You think, “Gosh, I don’t approve of their choices, but why can’t people just leave this poor family alone and be nice?” It’s effective. Most obviously, this experience for the viewer could translate into more tolerance for homosexuals, but really, it could translate into anything. The show gives you compassion for people you disagree with.

This season is more of the same stuff: Family drama, a rivalry with the Grants at Juniper Creek, Joey and crazy Wanda, etc. Except it is better than season one. It moves along more quickly and by now you care. It’s the strongest season. Bill starts dating a potential fourth wife, Ana, who Margene also befriends and likes. That falls through. Margene becomes a better character. She is the most supportive wife, I think. She’s very positive, genuine, and friendly, and I think she loves being a part of the family more than the other two wives. Nicki ‘s character got a little comedy to her (and it worked).
Season Grade: A

Season three
The first two seasons were not about Mormonism, but by season three, the show started taking some Mormon rituals, ripping them out of context, and exposing them on television. It was confusing to non-Mormons like me. Some of the Mormons, as people, are portrayed in a positive light, but others are portrayed as judgmental. But while this season wasn’t the best, it was the most addictive to me. It was the high point of me shunning my schoolwork and other shows to binge on Big Love. Roman Grant was going through a trial for his involvement with marrying off underage girls.

Nicki was undercover at the DA’s office, helping her father at the instruction of her mother. Of course, Bill tried to help get Roman convicted. Nicki’s season-long undermining insured Roman’s freedom, but then she changed her mind and pushed him down a flight of stairs. He was fine. Never having been in love, another shock for Nicki was falling for the DA, who fell for her too. There was so much growth and realization here for this most bad ass of the three wives. It’s a shame the show didn’t see it through. She even got to meet her long lost daughter, Cara Lynn, from a previous, underage marriage. Nicki was determined to have Cara Lynn get an education, and so she took her daughter back home with her. Too bad Cara Lynn is completely dragging down the show right now.

Bill went back to pursuing Ana, and this fell through again. He slept with her outside of marriage (gasp!), lending further support to the theory that polygamy is for men who don’t have the chops to commit to one woman for life. Also losing that ability was Joey. He opened himself up to the possibility of having another wife, but just before they were to be “sealed,” she was killed because of Roman Grant and another compound leader named Green. Green is sort of a gangster compound leader on this show. After Roman’s release, Joey killed him for killing his fiancé, changing the Joey character forever. Bill opened a Mormon-friendly casino. Barb was excommunicated from the Mormon church, and her face as they told her she was cut off was heartbreaking. Oldest daughter Sarah got married (after a pregnancy and miscarriage), and Nicki’s face watching Sarah marry the man she loved was one of the best moments in the show (Nicki was still carrying a torch for the DA).
Season Grade: A-

Season four
The show dropped the ball in this season. Nicki majorly regressed. The DA she liked found out she was Roman’s lying daughter, got angry, and disappeared. I really wanted to see Nicki end up leaving Bill for true love. Call me a soap-loving sap, but that would have been great for her character after all she learned in season three about her father, the corruption of the beliefs she grew up with, and her own feelings.

This season focused mostly on Bill’s ambition to run for state Senator and then out the family as polygamists. This was extremely brave, but horribly naïve. He thought that if the country could see his loving family, it would fall in love with them, and then they wouldn’t have to live in the shadows anymore. Bill won the election (with no help from Sissy Spacek’s nasty character), but his family was not accepted as he might have hoped. The political storyline was ok, but it wasn’t anywhere near the addictive storylines of seasons two and three. Nicki found out she was infertile and cut her hair. There was a really sad plotline with Roman’s gay son and his gay Mormon lover. Dumbest storyline? Bill’s teen son falling for Margene. Second dumbest storyline? Bill going to Mexico with a vengeful Joey to get his teen son back from the Greens who had kidnapped him. This season mixed the dumb with the disappointing. It wasn’t that it was bad TV; it was just so much worse than season 1-3. I think the show focused too much on Bill when he is neither the most interesting nor the most sympethetic character.
Season Grade: C

Season five
I have a question: Where have Joey and Wanda been this season? Technically, Joey never left Mexico and Wanda is on the compound, but I don’t like that. They were major characters for most of the show and I liked them way better than Cara Lynn. Cara Lynn is having an affair with a teacher, and you know how both bloggers feel about THAT storyline. The only silver lining is that we will get to see Nicki’s reaction when she finds out. Ha. Seriously, Nicki needs to be seen to be believed. She is in my top five female TV characters of all time.

This is the season that has the wives fighting the most. It seems like the bulk of each hour is spent on bickering and power struggles between the three, and I am sick of it. I am also really sick of Ana. I’m glad she is taking her pregnant self out of the country. I only liked her in season two. Nicki became legally married to Bill so that the family could legally adopt Cara Lynn. Nicki has fallen in love with Bill. As soon as Nicki started loving Bill, she stopped being as interesting to me. She got meaner and less sympathetic then too. She also looked better with long hair. The entire last two seasons would be redeemed if Nicki left Bill. That’s all I’m saying.

So far, this season has stayed away from the telenovela stuff Chloe Sevigny complained about last season, but it has just left us with the dull political career. Bill and Barb are trying to pass bills and make connections in Washington, and I sort of miss the family drama. Rhonda Volmer is back, and she’s not as fun the second time around. Also, it’s a little cheap that they replaced the actress who played Teeny/Tancy with a more attractive girl. This show sure knows how to dish out intriguing stuff and then rip it away from me.
Season Grade So Far: B-

Bottom line: Watch seasons 1-3. They are very good. The jury is still out on the final season.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gossip Girl - Empire of the Son review

Well, they had to give us something to tide us over the break.

Lily turned herself into the DA to stop Russell from forcing Chuck to choose his business over her. Or to stop Chuck from losing his business, if you don’t want to look at it cynically. She told the DA that it was because she hadn’t seen her kids smile at her for years. This can’t be true. That has to be physically impossible. We are trained to let off smiles, if only polite ones.

This was the episode centered around parents’ concern for their children and children being proud of their parents. Serena was proud of her mother, and we think Ben should be proud of his, too. Ben’s mother stole the affidavit from the van der Woodsen loft to clear her son’s name. We think that’s a good mom. Ben was ruining his life for Serena and her slimy family. Ben and Serena broke up, because we guess Ben has to go find himself and only liked Serena because she reminded him of his time as a teacher. Good. And we hope he stays gone. Once again: Not hot, not interesting. Serena kissed him goodbye, but didn’t chase after him. He did have Nate’s dad beat up, after all. Oh yeah, that came out via Vanessa, who made a cameo before she was chased off by Serena.

People who weren’t proud of their parents include Raina and Chuck. Raina saw her dad blackmailing Lily to get Chuck to sign over Bass industries. She thought this was dirty and wrong. He left Chicago, and she didn’t go with him. There was a nice moment where he told Raina that he was proud of her. He also said that she looked more like her mother every day (which should not have sat well on her ears since he lied to Raina and told her that her mom abandoned them for another man, but whatever. The audience knew it was sweet.) With her father gone, we guess she is going to keep hanging around with Nate. Before we start commenting on the good stuff, we would like to point out that we really liked Blair and Lily's party dresses this episode. Ok, back to the review.

As for Chuck, remember how his dad’s building caught on fire and killed a security guard? Yeah, we had forgotten too. It has been two years. But the big bomb Russell Thorpe dropped on Chuck involved this. After being beaten, Russell Thorpe decided to monologue like a classic villain about the reason for his revenge plan. He was even pouring himself a drink as he introduced the confession. He said that Raina’s mother had died in that fire. He also implied that Bart had killed her intentionally. Chuck took it like a boy with daddy issues, whining in denial, saying, “My dad and I had reached a good place before he died; you’re just trying to take that away from me!” Then he shut down the party he had held to celebrate his keeping his father’s legacy intact and sat at the bar, taking shots. Serena found him and told him to take his drunk ass to bed. He moaned that only Blair would understand how he felt. He jumped up to find her. GOOD. It’s about time he went crawling back to her, all yearning and whatnot.

Serena’s other parent rolled into town before the end of the hour and announced that grandma CeCe would be coming in too. They are there to protect Lily in her hour of legal need. How they are going to do that remains unknown. Meanwhile, Dan and Blair have been adorably hanging out and then avoiding each other. Both Dorota and Rufus let their charges know that “Dair” might have feelings for each other that they were afraid to explore. Dan showed up at Blair’s apartment the night after the party and said that they should test the theory with a kiss. This is actually a scientifically sound test: (see #3). The frame froze when Blair kissed Dan, and we were MAD. We wanted both Chuck and Serena to walk in and catch them. Now THAT would have been a cliffhanger.

Still, Episode Grade: A-

Gossip Girl returns on April 18th.

Pretty Little Liars - A Person of Interest review

This show is so unbelievably juicy sometimes. Also creepy. Also: Hey Toby! When did you get so good-looking? (The actor who plays Toby, Keegan Allen, is 27 - thank goodness)

What happened to the Pretty Little Liars this week:

-Aria: Jenna has been getting closer to Mr. Fitz, which Aria does not seem to appreciate. Also, Jenna potentially knows about the Ezra/Aria relationship, which is great. While one of us is really starting to warm up to them as a couple, it's still wrong. Having someone else outside the Liars (and A) know about the relationship could be amazingly bad for them. When Jenna gives Ezra one of her stories (a "fictional" account of a girl who was blinded by a smoke bomb in a garage - sound familiar?), Aria decides to come clean about what really happened. Oh Aria. That cannot end well.

-Emily: Emily goes on a few dates with Paige, who then admits she doesn't want to be seen in public with Emily. While one of us is still holding out hope that Maya will be back, being with Paige would be interesting for Emily. However, Emily found her courage a few episodes back, and told Paige that while she'll be friends with her, she's not going back into the closet. We are so proud of Emily for that. Also: Paige sang karaoke. It was hilariously bad but also adorable.

-Hanna: Ashley finally discovers that Caleb has been sleeping in the basement and kicks him out. Hanna decides to lose her V-card to him while camping out in the woods. When she comes home the next morning, her mom freaks out, but after a fight with Hanna (where she implies that her mom was once a foster child, or at least had a crappy home situation), Ashley relents. Caleb and Hanna are adorable, but when Caleb sneaks out to the patio to make a call, we find out that he's been getting closer to Hanna for nefarious reasons and he doesn't want to do it anymore. Both of us knew that he was going to turn out to be a sketchball, but it was a delicious reveal. (Our first clue that Caleb was going to have a secret? He's on this freaking show).

-Spencer: Oh boy. We had to save her for last. First, her parents are forcing her to go to a psychiatrist after they figure out part of what's going on with her, Melissa, and Ian. Spencer understandably doesn't like that her family thinks she's crazy, and her reaction only made them think she was crazier. Then she shared a hotel room, a cuddle, and a kiss with Toby. The police found out that she had a fling with Ian, and now Spencer is a "person of interest" in Alison's death. Poor Spencer! She knew this was coming though.

This was an episode focused on romantic relationships. Aria and Mr. Fitz got closer (darn). Emily and Paige had their thing, which ended because of Emily's honesty, for now. Toby and Spencer made significant strides, and Hanna gave it up to Caleb (dumb move, but we liked it). The twist on the end of the episode made it a nearly perfect weekly offering. Lots of drama and bad decisions, but we loved every second of it.

Our favorite part of the episode? The very end. They showed A watching a video of the girls watching the scene unfold at Spencer's house. A was literally eating popcorn and rewatching the video over and over. It was amazing.

Episode Grade: A-

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oscars Live Blog

-- It's ON. Ern is rooting for The King's Speech for best picture, and Leeard is rooting for The Social Network. Gloating rights to the victor!
-- We are loving the new "ten nominees for best picture" thing.
-- That wasn't funny, but it wasn't the fault of the actors involved. They were pretty good. And Back to the Future? That was random.
-- Anne Hathaway must think she's in Star Wars with that dress. She needs to sing.
-- You get naked, you get nominated! Ha. That explains quite a few awards.
-- Just what we need. A throwback to Gone with the Wind. We have to be in bed some time this century, thanks.
-- Best art direction: Ern wanted Harry Potter and Leeard wanted Inception. Alice in Wonderland won. Ok, we can see that. But there goes the trifecta.
-- Dude, no one cares. Maybe your mom. Maybe.
-- We both wanted The Social Network for cinematography. Inception won. We're not too mad.
-- Michelle Williams is sitting with Busy Phillips. That literally just made our nights.
-- This old guy is depressing us. It's like when they let Dick Clark talk on New Year's.
-- Ern wanted Amy Adams for Best Supporting Actress and Leeard wanted Helena Bonham Carter. We both knew Melissa Leo had it in the bag though, so we set our hearts up for heartbreak for nothing.
-- Ern and Leeard are fighting because Ern doesn't know who Kirk Douglas is, nor does she care/she hated him on the Oscars.
-- Leeard rooted for The Gruffalo, Ern for Day and Night. The Lost Thing won.
-- Ern wishes so much that How to Train Your Dragon would have won for Best Animated Picture. It was sooooo good. Leeard picked Toy Story 3, and that's what won. Laaaame
-- Ern and Leeard both picked The Social Network for Best Adapted Screenplay, and we knew it was going to win.
-- We both want Inception. It deserves it after its shunning of best director. But The King's Speech won.
-- Leeard thinks "best idea for a screenplay" should be a category.
-- Good, she sang. We're loving these shoes.
-- Did Hugh Jackman-hating Dr. Cox hijack this show?
-- Oh James Franco, you would.
-- Best Foreign Language Film: Biutiful was Leeard's pick, because she really loves Javier Bardem. Ern shunned it solely based on the spelling of the title, which irks her, and missed the other nominees. In a Better World won. We guess we will have to see it.
-- Best Supporting Actor: Ern and Leeard both think it is about time Christian Bale won an Oscar. Ern really likes Geoffrey Rush though. But why is he so bald? Bale won.
-- Why did Christian Bale choose to have that beard for when he KNEW he was going to win an Oscar? What, is he too cool to look good at this nice event? Funny speech though.
-- Leeard wanted The Social Network for Best Original Score. And it won. Ern didn't care at all.
-- Leeard literally screams in joy every time The Social Network wins something. Ern remains underwhelmed by that movie.
-- Nice Fake 'n Bake, Matt McConawhatsit (however you spell that).
-- Inception deserved the award for sound mixing.
-- Is anyone else wondering why True Grit is nominated for so much? It was good, not great.
-- We love you Cate Blanchett, but this is the one time we disagree with your fashion choices. Agree with The Wolfman for Best Makeup. That movie sucked though, and everyone was miscast.
-- James Franco said "Congratulations, nerds" to the recipients of the technical Oscars. COULD THIS SHOW BE ANY MORE YOUNG AND EDGY??
-- Best costume design: Ern wants The Tempest, even though she hasn't seen it yet. She's seen enough. Alice and Wonderland had good costumes too though.
-- Oh yay, we love when people read their speeches off of a card (sarcasm). She looks really nervous though.
-- They have to show a bunch of good movies songs, because the movie songs nominated this year all suck.
-- Leeard wants the Tangled song to win, but that might just be due to her Chuck obsession. Also, Tangled was a really cute movie. Ern thought the Country Strong song was the strongest, but that just might be because she likes Gwyneth and her voice. Leeard still hates Gwyneth.
-- We saw no doc shorts, thus no opinion. Leeard wanted Banksy for regular documentaries Inside Job won. (Great choice in Oprah to present this one). We didn't see any Live Action Short Films. But can that guy with the afro do EVERYONE'S speech. Except Colin Firth's. That had better be good.
-- Love the autotuning the movies into musicals.
-- Ern would like to make it clear that every time Harry Potter is nominated for anything, it should win.
-- Ern picked 127 Hours for editing. Everything Ern wants loses.... Leeard rooted for the winner, The Social Network.
-- Never thought we'd say this, but we want Jennifer Hudson's body.
-- Leeard is sad about many of these dead people.
-- Ern thinks the dead people portion of this show has gone on long enough.
-- Finally, the good stuff. We both wanted David Fincher for Best Director, but Tom Hooper won.
-- Ern hates these Oscars. What a bore. Lame musical performances, lame hosts (even though we like them as actors), and unsurprising awards. Leeard has called 11 out of 13. We need an upset or something.
-- Leeard thinks that the autotuned movie montage made up for everything else being crappy...except for David Fincher losing for Best Director.
-- Why did the talented Jennifer of Winter's Bone dress and dye her hair like a common slut?
-- Natalie Portman is the most gorgeous pregnant woman we've ever seen, and we are really happy she won.
-- Once again, not shocked by Colin Firth's win, but we are happy about it.
-- Yay for The King's Speech winning. But really, there was no reason for us to have watched this. We called most of them, and so did everyone else.

Other TV show grades for this week

Being Human

Modern Family

Off the Map

Gossip Girl
30 Rock
America’s Next Top Model
(Way to cut out casting week! Yay. But that dumb girl is really grating on us. Are any girls that naive, or are they just working the angle?)

Pretty Little Liars (Leeard disagrees profusely. This was a B+ episode, but Ern dragged it down with her grade.)
Parks and Recreation

The Office