April 11, 2006
It's hard to say goodbye
Courtesy of Columbia
Suddenly, the Andl tour got a shitload easier.
SPADE, SCHNEIDER AND HEDER STRIKE OUT
Nothing lasts forever. I'm discov-
ering that the hard way as grad-
uation rapidly approaches. And
nowhere is that more apparent than on
television. Each year, some of our favor-
ite shows take their final bow. Some
end on a high note, leaving the audience
wanting more, while others overstay
their welcome and end unceremoniously,
tarnishing their legacy of past greatness.
This season is no different.
Even so, this May is shaping up to be
one of the least memorable in years.
If last year's uninspired
slate left you cold, then
you'll be less than pleased
with this year's offerings.
There's really nothing that
will leave you standing at
the water cooler the next
morning a la "Seinfeld" or
"Cheers." It probably has
as much to do with the lack
of a breakout hit the past .
few seasons as it does withADi
the declining quality of the ROTTE
shows that are ending.
"The West Wing." "Will & Grace."
At one time, these three shows were
shoe-ins for constant appearances
at awards shows and the top of the
Nielsons. Even though "Alias" never
had the ratings success of those NBC
shows, it did receive plenty of buzz.
Now, the end is near.
I gave up on "The West Wing" when
creator Aaron Sorkin did: after the fourth
season. The few episodes I've seen since
don't really inspire much hope, but at
least they're calling it quits with the end
of the Bartlett administration instead of
pushing the show even further beyond
its welcome. The once-mighty series
took home four straight Emmys for best
drama, but now can barely eek out an
audience on a busy Sunday night.
"Will & Grace" is just painful to
watch. At first, it was somewhat funny in
its mean-spirited banter. That didn't last
too long. The series' faults are plentiful,
and despite NBC's best efforts, the show
will close with more of a whimper than
a bang when it ends. The only question
is how many more insipid guest stars the
show can squeeze in before then.
The only series of these three that's
even still on my radar is "Alias." Its first
two seasons still stand as some of the best
television ever produced. But the creative
failures of the past two years, coupled
with an uninspired first half to the final
year (thanks to Garner's real-life preg-
nancy), leave a bad taste in my mouth
when looking toward the end. From
network hints, it looks like J.J. Abrams's
thrill ride could still end on top, leav-.
ing me with fond memories of Sydney
Bristow's super spy.
The series finale can work in many
different ways. Most series
choose to ease out long-lin-
gering storylines or bring
in numerous guest stars
to help stir up sentiment.
More often than not, though,
these event-driven stories
fall flat when compared
to the heyday of a series.
Sure, you wanted Ross and
Rachel to end up together on
LM "Friends," but did you really
4BERG need the convoluted story-
line that accompanied it?
The best finales eschew the temptation
to deviate from the status quo. Just last
season, "Everybody Loves Raymond"
delivered a memorable and fitting send-
off. Raymond went into the hospital for
minor surgery, but his family received a
momentary scare when the doctor told
them that Raymond might not wake up
from anesthesia. The episode was slight-
ly more heartfelt than an average episode
of "Raymond," but it still felt like any
other and could pass as so.
The shows ending this year should
learn from this template. It's OK to
make the finale feel special, but no
more so than any other season finale.
Stick to what works; that's why we
watched it in the first place.
In the end, it's fine to say goodbye,
as long as you keep to the spirit of the
body of work.
- Rottenberg doesn't care about
the rules of a good finale and thanks
all of his friends at the Daily for giving
him the opportunity to write about the
shows he loves, even fno one else cares
to read about them. This is your last
chance to complain about his column.
E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Imran Syed
Daily Arts Writer
Rob Schneider stars in quality work, doesn't he?
Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions,
financer of such Schneider classics as "The Ani-
mal" and both "Deuce Biga-
low" movies, has a reputation
to keep. Never mind messing
around with social relevance
or witty writing - kicking a
guy in the crotch or farting
on a kid's face is as tour de
force as he gets.
In this world, comedians
At the Showcase
and Quality 16
like Jon Lovitz,
ten for Sandler. He's Gus, a landscaper who
has a thing against playground bullies. When
he sees a group of misfit kids get picked on by
some meanies, he teams up with his two friends
Clark (Jon Heder, "Napoleon Dynamite") and
Richie (David Spade, "Tommy Boy") to form a
baseball team to challenge the mean kids to a
game of 3-on-9.
Billionaire and "ex-nerd" Mel (Jon Lovitz,
"The Stepford Wives") steps in to organize a
regional tournament in which the winner gets a
brand-new baseball stadium.
Can the team of misfits prove its worth to
hostile fans? Will the meanies learn the value of
sportsmanship? Will Rob Schneider break out
the "you-can-do-it" line? So much intrigue ...
You know there are actually some fools out
there saying, "Wow, this film must be really bad
if Sandler himself won't even star in it." Well,
you see, Sandler is a busy man. His production
company receives dozens of excellent scripts,
but as otherworldly as Sandler is, he can't possi-
bly star in all of the films. So I guess you'll just
have to excuse him for keeping those border-
line-acceptable projects ("Spanglish," "Punch-
Drunk Love") while passing off crap like "Joe
Dirt," "The Hot Chick" and now "The Bench-
warmers" to his buddies.
This one tries hard to be a sweet movie and
avoid the usual mean-spirited humor a typi-
cal Schneider/Sandler movie overflows with.
It fails. There's just something about destroy-
ing mailboxes with a baseball bat and eating
boogers that doesn't exactly scream whole-
some family fun.
Of the three leads, only Spade manages a
couple of laughs, employing his trademark
one-liner schtick that worked so well on "Sat-
urday Night Live." For the most part, though,
he's terrible, as is Heder, who proves once
again that "Napoleon Dynamite" was an acci-
dent of marginal quality that he intends never
to commit again. And Schneider? How does he
still get work?
No one involved escapes "The Benchwarm-
ers" unscathed, least of all Sandler. Sure, you
can hide out in a semi-legit movie (the upcom-
ing "Click," maybe?) under Kate Beckinsale's
halo, but we all know you were behind this. And
we won't soon forget.
Tim Meadows and Terry Crews are bonafide
thespians, and the words "from the director of
'Big Daddy' " awaken feelings of euphoria, not
imminent suicide. Alas, the products of this
world are misunderstood and ostracized in the
buzzkill that is cinematic reality. Their latest
product, "The Benchwarmers," is no different.
Schneider plays the lead in a role clearly writ-
By Imran Syed
Daily Arts Writer
Just because there's never been a sitcom
Scholars look to put Seattle on map
By Anthony Baber
Daily Arts Writer
focused on high school
mean there should be.
NBC, however, labors
under the delusion
that the recent line of
insipid sitcom drab can
be completely revital-
"Don't worry about it; she'll turn 18 next month."
ized by minor changes
in setting and characters. Let's not forget
that comedy is a big part of what makes
a sitcom, and even the most inspired set-
ting can only go so far to garner laughs.
It's writing that makes or breaks a sitcom
- and "Teachers" is every bit as broken
as "Joey" or "Four Kings."
Somehow able to avoid the unfortunate
temptation that has ensnared so many writ-
ers and producers, the creators of "Teach-
ers" managed not to set the show in New
York City - opting instead for nearby
New Jersey. Out there in the urban bustle
of the Garden State lives Jeff Cahill (Justin
Bartha, "Failure to Launch"), a high school
teacher who apparently hates his job. Jeff
spends his mornings and afternoons play-
ing golf in school classrooms with his
friend/colleague/token minority Calvin
(Deon Richmond, who self-consciously
satirized a role such as this in "Scream 3"),
hitting on conveniently promiscuous sub-
stitutes and making fun of teachers who
actually teach. Sounds sweet, doesn't he?
Jeff may hit on every woman he sees,
but fear not: There's one central love inter-
est. Alice (Sarah Alexander, the U.K:s
"Coupling") is a walking, talking Aber-
crombie mannequin, present for no reason
other than to overemphasize her British
accent in words like "Tuesday" (which
comes out "Choose-die"), to the ecstasy
of the overzealous laugh track.
Should it matter that there likely isn't
a single 30-something British teacher in
New Jersey with a fixation on ski hats and
collared shirts? Nah, this show has about
as much to do with real high schools as
"Grey's Anatomy" does with real emer-
OK, so now that we've got a school
and teachers, all we need is students. How
about one who's just about to fail when the
talented Mr. Cahill (now revealed to be an
authority on Shakespeare, love and life),
steps in to save his future? And wouldn't
it be perfect if Sarah sees him preaching
"Hamlet" to this lost little boy and falls
in love with him? Man, these guys have
thought of everything!
In the show's pilot, there's not one gen-
uinely funny joke. But there are, of course,
several derogatory comments, hearkening
back to the nonexistent era when putdowns
were cool. At one point, Cahill exclaims,
"That is so gay!" Now there's a guy who
knows his Shakespeare.
"Teachers" is about as bad as sitcoms
can get,yet still makes it on the air. It should
last another two to three weeks before the
morons in charge of programming at NBC
get the message: It takes more than a slight
twist on the sitcom formula to find success,
and no matter how innovative the setting,
Ever since they joined up in 2002,
Geologic and Sabzi have been known
as the Blue Scholars, a Seattle hip-
hop powerhouse. Already known
for their blue-collar work ethic and
social commentary, their style of
music truly resides where the hustle
and the struggle coincide.
Unfortunately for their PR peo-
ple, all their artistic desires geo-
graphically coincide in the Blue
Scholars' home: Seattle. It's a fine
city for latte and yellow tail, but it's
historically a place more flannel
than Def Jam.
But coming from such inauspi-
cious surroudings just highlights that
the Blue Scholars are becoming true
representation of what is known in
hip hop as "the come-up," the shift
in fame and popularity that can take
a no-namer from the county fair to
Times Square. This process is vital to
the growth of hip hop, because when
one star dies, another must be born.
And Seattle is a city desperate to
birth a star.
"We're re-evaluating what our
goals are," said Geologic, Blue Schol-
ars' MC. "We've been doing ground
work on the local crowd, making sure
we have love at home, but we want to
make sure we make a push nationally.
We want to put Seattle on the map for
quality hip hop."
Putting Seattle on the map is
a difficult task when rap has long
been dominated by New York and
Los Angeles. Even though they are
a part of the West Coast, their style
is not that of the typical West Coast
rapper. They don't rock old Cut
Supremes or puff the same amount
of greenery as SoCal's giants. Their
path to fame is more difficult not
because they're from Seattle, but
because they're not from New York
or Los Angeles.
Thankfully, the roads less trav-
eled are being shorn down each
day. Houston and Atlanta - once
second-tier cities - have reshaped
the frame of what hip hop is sup-
posed to be. Atlanta is outselling
New York year in and year out. Rap
has become diversified to the point
where Seattle can actually form a
style and aesthetic true to its own
Luckily, that's exactly what the
Blue Scholars wants to do.
Seattle's aesthetic, a clear strain
in the Scholars' work, is what you'd
expect from the Emerald City: pro-
gressive, quirky, eager to prove
its worth, eclectic and, most of
all, unafraid of swinging political
After years of existing only on
the underground Seattle circuit,
working small clubs and shows,
they finally gained the opportu-
nity to broaden their musical hori-
zons and hit the road for their first
"We're going through Toledo,
Chicago, Madison and we're going
to end our part of the tour in Min-
neapolis," Geologic said. The group
also performed last month at the
Coming from the small stage of
Seattle hip hop, which gets little
to no recognition, being a part of a
national tour is a dream come true.
"I'm excited to be out here
because it's kind of a test to see
how far your music has reached and
how much more work you have to
do," Geologic said. "There's this
whole perception of Seattle with
the grunge scene, but we know
about good hip hop. Anyone who
still only knows Seattle for Nirvana
and Sir Mix-A-Lot needs to wake
up and get in the mix."
On the Ann Arbor leg of their
tour, Sabzi cut on Marvin Gaye's
"What's Goin' On" and spun back
over the lyric saying, "War is not
the answer." Geologic incited the
crowd to repeat the lyric as a chant
over and over, leading into the pow-
erful, political "Blink," where he
questions the war in Iraq and Presi-
"I love the energy I get from per-
forming; it's like a political rally
where I'm gearing everybody up,"
Geo said. "I see everything around
me as political - other people's
actions, people I meet on the street,
The group continues to work its
way to the top, and after an emo-
tionally charged series of concerts,
they'll continue spreading the mes-
sage to all within earshot.
"It's incredible to be embraced
by people who really appreciate hip
hop," Geologic said. "We really feel
M (GERALD K FORD SCFIOOL OF PUBLIC POLICY
The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy is pleased to announce a new
undergraduate public policy course, to be taught in the Fall 2006 semester by
Paul N. Courant, Professor of Public Policy and Economics and past Provost of
the University of Michigan -
Public Policy 201: Systematic Thinking About Problems of the Day
" Open to all undergraduate students
" Pre-reqs: Economics 101 and any other introductory social science course
" 4 credit class, sophomore level, class number - 28438
" Tuesday/Thursday 1:00-2:30pm 1120 Weill Hall (Joan and Sanford Weill Hall,
the new home of the ford School, located at the corner of Hill and State.)
THE FOURTH ANNUAL
NANCY CANTOR DISTINGUISHED LECTURESHIP ON
. .4~, *.
.S (~. .5,
ST IN GUI
L ECT U RE R
Frank Wu, Dean
Wayne State University Law School
Author of Yellow: Race in America
Beyond Black and White