Venture Bros. Season 2 DVD teaser promo!

Courtesy Jackson Publick’s blog, there is now a viewable teaser trailer for the upcoming DVD set of The Venture Bros., Season 2. It debuted at the recent New York Comic-Con, but is now available for our viewing pleasure. I have to admit, I had a hard time getting into the 2nd season when it started. The whole “Hank/Dean as clones” plot device didn’t sit well with me, but I got over it and enjoyed the rest of the season. One thing I loved — lots of Dr. Orpheus! It’s probably a good thing I ended up digging the season, because it looks like Season 3 won’t hit the airwaves until next Spring. Bummer.

Sometimes you gotta know when to say ‘when’

It really sucks when a great series is taken off the air in its prime. TV history is full of such mistakes, and I’m sure each of us has a list a mile long. But what sucks even more is when a great show is allowed to hang around too long. Like an athlete past his prime, we see occasional glimpses of the show’s former greatness that give us hope, but more often we stick around simply out of loyalty. That and a dogged determination to see the end play out after investing so much time.

While in retrospect the signs that Scrubs was nearing that point were there last season, it has become painfully clear this year. Granted, the last new episode was decent. But for the most part the show has been lifeless and empty. And that’s not even mentioning the horrid Broadway musical episode (*shudder*). The character development has been forced – was it really necessary to have J.D. get his girlfriend pregnant just because two other couples were already expecting? – and the gags have mostly fallen flat. I’m not sure what the problem is exactly, but a show like Scrubs is great because the comedic timing is precise. When it’s off, just by a bit, the whole thing falls apart.

Back in the day (the day being 2003 or so), Scrubs was easily the best comedy on TV, and I howled at the shabby treatment it got from NBC. But now, scheduled next to The Office, the decline of Scrubs was even more visible. I will willing to finish out this season (the sixth), because most indications were that it would be the last one. It just didn’t feel right bailing on a show that had given me so much laughter over the last five years.

So imagine my consternation when I read today that there will likely be a seventh season. The decision seems to be Zach Braff’s, which is as it should be. But unless things pick up considerably this year, I will not be around to witness the end as I wanted to. Alas, there are always reruns and DVD box sets.

Funny for 30 seconds? Oh yeah. 30 minutes?

Hey ABC? Next time, maybe do a little research.

Funny for 30 seconds?  Oh yeah.  30 minutes?The key to a really fresh and fun concept staying that way is to avoid overexposure. But entertainment executives rarely subscribe to the “less is more” theory, and as a result we get ill-fated concepts like the recently announced ABC series “Cavemen.” The show, as you probably already guessed, is based on the totally awesome series of Geico commercials centering around a group of prehistoric sophisticates suffering bigotry in the modern world, mostly at the hands of the aforementioned insurance company.

The ads work not only because they’re extremely clever, but because they’re extremely short. You get a setup and a punchline in under a minute. I just don’t see them working when stretched out to a half-hour format. The impact is lessened, and never mind the likelihood that the writing will be dumbed down for a mass audience. The multiple layers of uniqueness and subtlety that make the commercials so great will be hammered out by network executives and drowned in a crappy laugh track. Think “According to Jim” with a larger makeup budget.

I fear that when this show tanks it might mean the end of the ad campaign, and that would be the real crime. It would mean the end of great marketing ideas like this.

Do you know who I am? I’m Chris Hansen dammit!$#!

I'm Chris Hansen from Dateline NBC!Last night “To Catch a Predator,” still quaintly referred to as Dateline NBC (as if anything else on that show matters anymore), brought the Chris Hansen Tour ’06-’07 to Flagler Beach, Florida. The usual assortment of creeps and perverts was paraded in front of the cameras for our collective amusement. My personal favorite was the swarthy Egyptian fellow who brought lotion, wilted flowers and a Krackel bar with him. Nice to see that romance isn’t dead.

One thing I’ve concluded is that while many people may find the actual arrests of these people to be the climax of the show, I think it’s what I refer to as the “Hansen Money Shot.” But the key to the HMS isn’t just the confrontation, it’s when our intrepid reporter finds ever more creative ways to shoehorn his name into the segment. Hansen, who is berating the perv like he would a dog who just crapped on the rug, signals the end of the transaction thusly — “There’s one more thing you should know. I’m Chris Hansen from Dateline NBC, and you’re toast you dirty kid toucher.” Well, something like that.

If the guy stays for his scolding, Hansen’s job is easy enough. But when they run, Chris has to act quickly. “Hey! Before you head back to your Camaro I’m Chris Hansen Dateline hahahahaha!” If the future prison inmate is too fast, verbs are optional. “I’MCHRISHANSEN!” I’m not sure what Hansen’s deal is with letting the guys know who he is, although he obviously gets a lot of satisfaction from it. Do the police have to let the guy go if he doesn’t know who brought the hammer down? More importantly, is that how he acts in his daily life?

“Hi sir, welcome to Red Lobster! Can I start…”
“Before we go any further, you should know that I’m Chris Hansen from Dateline NBC, and I’m here to have the Captain’s Feast.”
“Ummm, OK. So do you want a drink to start with?”
“Is that how you play your dirty little game? Get me intoxicated? I’m Chris Hansen from Dateline NBC, and I will not fall for that.”
“WTF? Dude, what’s your problem?”
“One of our hidden cameras caught you inappropriately touching a little girl over at that table earlier.”
“She was choking! I was giving her the Heimlich Maneuver!”
“Oh. Well in that case I’ll have a Lobster Margarita. And some cheese biscuits!”

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Fare thee well, Everwood

EverwoodJust my luck – I start watching a show that’s already been established, get completely involved in it and then it goes away. Such has happened with the superlative WB drama Everwood, which aired its final episode last night. I got sucked into the show last year thanks to my wife, and I am saddened to see it go. Everwood had that rare blend of quality acting, writing and storytelling. It was light when it needed to be, and the moments of drama were indeed powerful.

I was going to go off on a rant about how unfair it is that Everwood didn’t make it to the new “CW” network while crap like One Tree Hill will live on. But that would miss the point, which is to offer a brief testimonial to one of the best TV shows I’ve seen in years.

I can’t offer a comprehensive review of the series, mainly because I only started watching it during the 3rd season (it made it through four). And of course, only the 1st season is available on DVD. I would like to think that some network would see the value in a quality show like Everwood and would be willing to resuscitate it. But I don’t see that happening.

One of the weird things I often do with shows (dramas especially) is wonder if I could see myself living among the characters. This is not my way of judging the quality of a show, mind you. I love Grey’s Anatomy, but I would have to smack most of those characters if I knew them in real life. But I could see living in a town like Everwood, and with people like the Brown and Abbott families. They were flawed, but decent people. When Irv Harper died in a recent episode, I almost felt as if one of my friends or family members had died. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show where I felt like that. I imagine I would have with M*A*S*H, but that was a bit before my time.

So at the risk of sounding too maudlin, I’ll just say thanks. Thanks to the actors, writers and creator of Everwood for giving me a reason to think that television still has something great to offer.

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Whole Lotta Landon!

It’s really easy to be cynical about the world these days. Believe me, I am all the time. And this cynicism is found in abundance in popular entertainment. Everything from music to movies to TV is super-slick and EXTREME! Hell, even most commercials are a lot more cynical than they used to be. Sometimes this bothers me, but I must admit that most of my favorite TV shows are very cynical – Seinfeld, The Simpsons, and Family Guy to name a few. These shows are not only not wholesome, they are Anti-Wholesome.

This can't be right. There are way too many people smiling here.

To me, wholesome was always associated with boring. Wonder Bread is wholesome (and nasty). Leave It To Beaver is wholesome.

Few shows in television history are more wholesome than Little House on the Prairie. I mean, c’mon, it’s Michael Landon. I was a bit young to have seen the show during most of its original TV run (1974-1982). And when I did watch it I was not interested at all. But for some reason, I got sucked in over the Labor Day weekend.  TV Land held a Michael Landon marathon, airing episodes of Bonanza, Highway to Heaven and the aforementioned Little House. And what can I say? I got hooked. I must’ve watched a dozen episodes over the weekend.

I can’t say exactly why I got into it so much. Sure, there wasn’t a whole lot else on, but that’s only part of it I think. Maybe part of it is a certain personal longing for a less complicated life. Or maybe it’s nice to see a real community where people don’t avoid eye contact all cost. But most of all, there’s just something about the way the show was written and acted that made me care about the characters. These are people I would like to know and have as friends. I love Seinfeld, but if I had to hang out with George Costanza I would kick him in the groin like I was going for a game-winning field goal.

Sure, the show has its share of cheesiness and sap. I mean, c’mon, it’s Michael Landon. And the cheese factor definitely got ramped up in the show’s later years, when it started to stray from the source material and became more formulaic. But the early episodes I saw were great. Great enough, in fact, that I am willing to overlook the sappier moments, the overly dramatic music and occasional flaws and problems of the show. (Just how did Laura’s teeth get so straight? Isn’t it awful mountainous for Minnesota?)

The problem with watching a marathon is that usually the most “important” shows are aired. In the case of Little House, this usually means moments of great tragedy. So in the course of three days I saw Mary go blind, the Ingalls’ farm get destroyed by a tornado, Charles and Caroline’s infant son die, Albert set fire to the school for the blind and Mary’s baby burn to death, and all of Walnut Grove go bankrupt. I think I saw one episode that would qualify as light-hearted. Otherwise, it was one blunt emotional trauma after another.

Still, I’m not deterred. I’m sure the series wasn’t all like that. At least I hope not. TV Land is now airing the show every evening. And while I will still watch all the shows I currently enjoy, it’s nice to know that there’s still a show I can watch where people are decent to each other and don’t take every chance they get to cut someone else down with a clever insult. That would never do at the Little House. I mean, c’mon, it’s Michael Landon.

Patrick Warburton, Linchpin of the Universe

You know that feeling of total satisfaction you get when you find something great in life, and you didn’t even realize you were looking for it?  I got that very feeling late last year when I discovered The Venture Brothers.

I remember seeing ads for the show last year on Cartoon Network before its debut. I wasn’t really all that impressed by what I saw. Maybe I was just jaded because most of the original programming on Cartoon Network is garbage that barely passes as animation. So in case the marketing team behind the show reads this, it’s not necessarily your fault.

When I did happen to catch the show it was purely by accident. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but it probably had something to do with me killing time on a Saturday night to avoid getting to sleep at a decent hour. Regardless, I was hooked from the beginning. Without regurgitating the premise of show, I’ll just say that it’s one of the funniest three shows on TV right now (next to Family Guy and Scrubs). So that means 66.7% of the greatest comedies on TV right now (75% if you want to include Seinfeld reruns) involve Patrick Warburton. Actually, I guess it’s not a leap to say that without Patrick Warburton TV comedy would be dead (Scrubs excepted). I’d be stuck watching infomercials for the Dean Martin Roasts if I wanted some laughs.

So anyway, after screwing with Venture Brothers fans for a while, Cartoon Network did finally announce last March that a second season of the show was approved. Good thing too – I really didn’t want to unleash the torrent of sternly worded emails I had stored in my Outlook Drafts folder. No corporation, no matter how evil and ignorant, deserves that. Although if McDonald’s doesn’t put an end already to the bile-inducing “I’m Lovin’ It” ad campaign I may change my mind.

I just hope that I don’t set my expectation so high that I end up being disappointed. As cynical as I can be about most things, I happily admit that I’ve converted to a total Venture Brothers fanboy. And with that comes the danger of being overly critical of any new episodes. But if nothing else, I will happily hand over a wad of cash when the VB Season 1 DVD comes out. And then pray at the Altar of Warburton.

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But can it core a apple?

I’m a sucker for a good infomercial. There were times (before I graduated college) when I would literally stay up all night and watch nothing but infomercials. This was in the mid 1990s, or what I refer to as the Golden Age of the Infomercial. Perhaps not coincidentally, the mid 1990s were also the Dark Ages of My Dating Life.I challenge anyone to name five prime time shows of that era that were as consistently entertaining as the infomercials of that era.

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