September 12, 2005
arts. michigandaily. com
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And so the race begins
THE MERITS OF THE NEN
Wth the fall TV season just around the corner,
Daily TV/New Media Editor Punit Mattoo
and Managing Arts Editor Adam Rottenberg
debate everything from the highlights to the lowlights
and the phenomenon of "The O.C." in between.
What's the best new series?
Punit Mattoo: "Everybody Hates Chris." Not so much
because I think it'll be funny - I just want to see if
the same network that made "Homeboys From Outer-
space" can make a good show and also if Chris Rock
can do something funny outside of his standup.
Adam Rottenberg: "Everybody Hates Chris" looks
good, but I know I won't be watching it on Thursdays.
It's a toss-up for me between "My Name is Earl" and
"Kitchen Confidential." I have a soft spot for uncon-
ventional sitcoms, and both of these seem to be in that
Which new series will be cancelled first?
AR: It has to be "Reunion." Sure, the initial ratings
are good, but look at the past history of the time slot
after "The O.C.": "North Shore," "Point Pleasant." It
turns out that viewers don't really want to see more
pretty people with problems after watching Seth and
PM: Yeah, Fox manages to rip off one of its own
shows for "Reunion." The whole premise - each epi-
sode as a year in the character's lives - isn't really
interesting or new at all. But I'm going with Jennifer
Love Hewitt's new show, "Ghost Whisperer," as the
worst show. Friday night on Fox is where shows go
to die, and this one already has a foot in the grave. A
fully-clothed JLH can't attract viewers with her awful
acting, and characters who can speak to the dead are
Is "Lost" going anywhere?
AR: f see a big repeat of "The X-Files" here - all
build-up, no answers. Despite what the producers
say, I don't think they have anything planned out for
the long term. J.J. Abrams' other show, "Alias," has
already run out of steam with the guessing games,
and I don't see this one being any different. There
were 24 episodes of "Lost" last season, yet we still
know nothing about the hatch, the "others" or the
PM: It's only a matter of time before we all get tired
of cliffhanger endings and cryptic messages that
never get explained. How long can people watch a
show where the writers are basically trying to make
Speaking of "Lost," what's in the hatch?
PM: Lots of heroin for Charlie. I think everyone will
turn to drugs to pass the time and the show changes
into one giant trip to make way for even more "mys-
terious" stuff happening. And with ABC in high
definition, hallucinations have never been more real-
AR: While drugs may be an interesting creative
decision, it will probably end up being nothing.
They'll go down that staircase and find another door.
And guess what? That door will be locked, and the
characters will spend the entire next season trying
to open that.
Even so, "Lost" may be the best sophomore
series. But what's the worst?
AR: I know you're going to say "Rodney," but I'm
going to name a show I've at least seen. I watched
"Joey" a few times, and I wish I hadn't. Honestly, he
was a one-note character on "Friends," and I have no
idea how they were planning on stretching it out for a
full series. The premise just doesn't work.
PM: "Joey" is horrible and should have never been
created, but I didn't even realize that "Rodney" exist-
ed until I read some magazine's fall TV Preview. And
after watching a few episodes recently (thank God for
the Internet), I'm glad I missed out. So-called "star"
Rodney Carrington has to be the blandest leading
character on television and confirmed my hunch that
ABC honestly believes "According to Jim" is a model
for all family sitcoms. And that is not a good thing.
What to watch on Thursdays at 8 p.m.?
PM: I want to say "Everybody Hates Chris," espe-
cially because I named it the best new show this fall,
but I know "The 0.C." is going to get all my atten-
tion. Crazy plotlines, hot girls and water-cooler talk
all keep me addicted. Hopefully, "Everybody Hates
Chris" will be funny during the eight minutes I'll
watch while "The O.C." has commercials.
AR: This timeslot has become the new battlezone,
especially since the era of "Must-See TV" is over.
Thankfully, TiVo will cover "The O.C." for me so I
can watch one of the best shows on television, "Alias."
Who cares if she's been Afflecked and will now be
preggers all season? It's still the best thrill ride on TV
- sorry to all you "24" fans.
So if you stick with "The 0.C." in that time
slot, why do you watch it?
AR: I don't know about you, but I like to watch 30-
year olds pretend they're in high school - damn,
Ryan looks old with that new haircut. Plus, Sandy
Cohen might be the best TV attorney of all time.
Ryan gets arrested for attempted murder; Sandy's
there. Julie's being blackmailed for a porn tape; San-
dy's got it covered. Is there any type of law he can't
PM: Sandy Cohen is the man. He should completely
sell out and start working for tobacco companies so
that he becomes this slightly villainous character.
The show's writers would make the moral dilemmas
so over-the-top and set it to some horrible Death Cab
song that I couldn't help but watch.
rade-school kids dread no
month more than Septem-
ber, the inescapable signi-
fier that summer is officially over
and school has arrived. Even if
you didn't mind going back every
year, it still felt distinctly like we
had been cheated. I will
never forget that sobering
moment when I realized
that I would not be able to
watch "David the Gnome"
any more because it was
on at 9 a.m. and school
started an hour earlier.
To this day, my parents
probably still think I was
crying on the first day
because they were leaving JEF
me. Not true. BL
Hollywood deals with
the same sort of thing. September
ends the traditional Memorial Day-
to-Labor Day summer movie rush
(which, in recent years, has been
pushed back to the first weekend of
May, but tell that to the producers
of "Kingdom of Heaven"). Studios
bring in more revenue during those
four months than the rest of the year,
but come fall, most of their money
will be made (and lost) on risks
- movies that they had to be bul-
lied into financing in the first place.
Recently, we're talking the better
part of the Best Picture nominees
- "Million Dollar Baby," "The Avi-
ator," even "The Lord of the Rings"
- all of which bounced around
from one end of Hollywood to the
other before eventually finding a stu-
dio to back them.
But when it works, it really works,
and so the process endures. The
promise of awards attention is good
for business, and besides, Hollywood
loves nothing more than to be in
the national spotlight. Studios hate
to finance the movies themselves,
but when it comes time for their
award-season campaigns, they don't
hesitate to shovel funds into trade-
paper ads and congratulatory parties
for their nominees. It's a numbing
annual turnaround that is neverthe-
less great fun for movie buffs, and it
officially kicked off last week with
the Toronto Film Festival.
While it's not the oldes\ or even"
the most highly respected (Cannes
will always be the alpha and omega
of them all, even if it remains
unknown to most American audi-
ences), the fest has become the
largest in the world - an industry-
wide launching pad for the mov-
ies that will fill out the Academy
Award nominations come January.
If you think it's too early for specu-
lation on an awards show that's still
five months away, I mind you that
Entertainment Weekly had early
Oscar coverage in July. And just
ask that sorta off-the-wall kid in
your Psych class who loves movies,
and I'll bet he can already rattle off
this year's prospects.
Most of these movies won't
launch visible campaigns until a
good amount of people have already
seen them; if word of mouth never
catches on, neither will they. It
seems that every year, conventional
Hollywood wisdom holds that they
should not start any real promotion
of their platform releases until even
casual moviegoers have already
heard about the movie enough times
to want to go see it.
Ah, but this year, you are mad at
the movies. You don't like the pric-
es, you don't like the atmosphere
and most importantly,
you don't like the mov-
ies. For months on end,
all anyone's wanted to
talk about is how box-
office returns are down
hard from last year
(some of which is war-
ranted, some of which
is not). Sure, you saw
"Batman Begins" and
FREY "Wedding Crashers,"
OMER and for better or worse,
everyone went to "Star
Wars," but these were the exception
rather than the rule.
If the most common reason given
for the downturn is the quality
of the movies - and as of late, it
seems that it is - then presumably,
September should end this trend.
In the fall, we will have "Jarhead,"
Sam Mendes's ("American Beauty")
Gulf War drama with Jake Gyl-
lenhaal and Jamie Foxx; "Walk the
Line," the Johnny Cash biopic that
has industry insiders practically
handing the Oscar over to Joaquin
Phoenix; and "Capote," with still
another buzz-swiping performance
from Phillip Seymo~ur Hoffman as
the title writer.
These movies will have niche
audiences and, if they're lucky, find
bigger crowds with time. But some-
how I doubt moviegoers at large
will ever warm up to, say, "Broke-
back Mountain." From the E. Annie
Proulx story and director Ang Lee
("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Drag-
on"), the long-awaited film also
stars Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger
in a decade-spanning story of cow-
boys in love. The movie, set in the
idyllic '60s Wyoming backcountry,
has already won the Golden Lion at
Venice and might just take top acco-
lades from Toronto as well.
But I can't help but suspect that
you won't go see it. You already
skipped most of what turned out
to be a fairly strong summer - for
every "Fantastic Four" there was
a "Batman Begins," for every
"Bewitched" there was a "Broken
Flowers" - but now, we are about
to enter what is widely expected to
be the richest and most competitive
awards season in years.
So it's time to go back to the
movies. No more bitching about the
$9 tickets and annoying kids and
cell phones; it's all negligible if you
find a good movie. You still have a
month or two before the films at the
festivals start rolling into theaters,
but in the meantime, try Werner
Herzog's stunning "Grizzly Man,"
now playing at the State Theater
and by far the best documentary
released so far this year. You might
just be surprised at how much you
- Bloomer really loves film festivals
and already has tickets for Sundance.
Let him now how awesome they are by
e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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