Monday, March 24, 2008

I Just Feel Sorry For You

I just got done watching the greatly appreciated Britney Spears episode of "How I Met Your Mother" and I couldn’t help but notice a few things along the way:

1. There is obviously a lot of things going on behind the scenes with the show right now. CBS has been looking for a justifiable reason to cancel the show and the show’s creators and executive producers (Carter Bays and Craig Thomas - two guys I worked for at Letterman) responded by pulling the ultimate stunt casting move of all time by bringing in Britney Spears and Sarah Chalke from "Scrubs" (PS - it has been awesome to see the show getting so much attention on websites and on magazine covers the past week. It’s just a shame it’s not because of how great the show is but whatever).

2. In the first three years of the show this was the first episode written by Carter, Craig, and Chris Harris (another Letterman writer that they brought over to "HIMYM") and this was only the fifth episode written by Carter and Craig in the last two years. To me this says that they were taking this ep very seriously and they knew there was a lot riding on it. They knew that with having Britney and Sarah there was potential for it to get out of control in the wrong hands and they even brought in Chris to help keep it grounded. I could be reading waaaay too much into this but that instantly struck me when I saw the writing credits at the beginning of the show.

3. Britney was actually kind of funny. The dialogue overall felt a little forced at times and first 20 minutes of the episode were kind of awkward because it featured so much of Ted, Sarah (playing Ted’s dermatologist), and Britney (playing the office receptionist) and relegated the rest of the (stellar) cast to a complete supporting role but that leads me to...

4. How it was all worth it for the "two minute date" at the very end. That was completely epic and one of the creative sitcom moments I have ever seen. Did you also notice that there were NO edits in that scene? Amazing.

5. And that leads me to my fifth and final point. For the last three years I have been killing myself telling people about this show and trying to get people to watch. For whatever reason people don’t and it will probably get cancelled. People will keep complaining that there’s nothing good on television and CBS will continue failing to connect with younger viewers because they couldn’t realize that they had something there to pave the way all this time. But after seeing that "two minute date", I just felt sorry for everyone that didn’t get to see it. Instead of feeling sorry for myself for liking yet another show that will be prematurely axed, I was proud that I have been there along and I got to witness something truly special.

The ratings will come out tomorrow around 12:00 p.m. EST and hopefully the Britney cameo and media pub will give it a little spike. A 7.2 rating/12 share would be awesome, however unlikely, but something like a 6.6/10 would have to get the attention of CBS (the show has consistently been in the 4.8/7 - 5.9/9 range for the last two seasons).

I actually think next week’s ratings - without Britney - will have more to do with the hope of future seasons.

But I honestly don’t care anymore. All the emphasis going into tonight was on Brit (and she delivered) but Carter and Craig knew that they needed something more to keep people coming back next week and that’s why we got the "two minute date" and that kind of thinking has been the driving force to the continual brilliance of the show.

Watch or don’t, it doesn’t matter anymore.

I did and you missed it.

My New Best Friend

I have a new best friend.

My sincerest apologies to everyone who has considered themselves to be my closest companion (and believe me, there are many) but a new relationship has blossomed in my life and I have to follow my heart.

Its official name is “global positioning system navigation unit”.

Many people know it as “GPS”.

I now know it as “BFF”.

I know I’m probably a couple years late getting on board with this one but I don’t care; this thing has legitimately changed my life.

Last weekend my buddy Kevin was planning to go up to Philadelphia to visit some family. He didn’t want to make the trip alone so he said that if my Girlfriend and I went up with him on Friday, we could have take his car into the city on Saturday while he was hanging out with his fam.

We were staying with Kevin’s aunt and uncle (who live outside the city) and when we arrived to their house on Friday night, his uncle said that we could use his GPS to help us get around town the next day. I was very reluctant at first because I happen to very proud of a little something that I like to call my “IPS” or Internal Positioning System.

Seriously, there’s not much that I really excel in, but for whatever reason, I’ve always been kind of freakishly good at knowing where I am and finding my way around unfamiliar places.

Like I’m borderline amazing.

Being the obsessive compulsive that I am, I went to bed that night secretly hoping that Kevin’s uncle would forget all about this GPS nonsense and we almost got out of the house the next morning without it (believe me, I was trying) before he remembered to give it to us.

Of course my Girlfriend was instantly enamored with the new technology and turned it on and began playing with it. We were greeted by a synthetic woman’s voice that instantly began barking out directions and as the blood raced to my head, all I could think was, “Great, now I have TWO women telling me how to drive.”

Before we went to the city, I had planned on taking my Girlfriend into Levittown, PA – my dad’s hometown – and I called my folks from the car to get the address of the house where dad grew up.

Even though I was supremely confident in my abilities to find the house on my own, my Girlfriend took it upon herself to enter the address into the GPS and suddenly the woman’s voice began telling me what lane to be in and when to exit and when to take a sip of my coffee.

I was ready to throw it out the window when I realized two very important things: (1) It wasn’t my property to destroy and (2) I wasn’t that stressed trying to find the house because the stupid thing was actually doing a really good job.

Without breaking a sweat, the GPS got us right to my dad’s old house and I have to believe it also saved us from a disastrous argument that would have resulted in a half hour of tense silence and me begrudgingly stopping somewhere to ask for directions.

From Levittown, we were then able to enter in the location of Geno’s Steaks (the famous downtown Philly cheese steak stand) and even though I had a general idea of where I was going, the GPS got us there easily and I was never panicked while fighting the intricate downtown traffic.

After grabbing a bite to eat at Geno’s we plugged in the directions to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall area and it was during that trip that I realized the greatest GPS benefit of all: I now had something besides myself to get mad at if we ever did get lost.

A mental life saver for any man.

We found a parking lot and began walking over to the Liberty Bell when we couldn’t help but feel a little turned around on the streets.

My Girlfriend joked, “They need to make a GPS for walking.”

It was in that moment, as I was already beginning to feel the disoriented feeling of confusion, that I knew I was falling in love.

When we got back to Kevin’s uncle’s house later that night, I found myself handing over the GPS as timidly as I had taken it; but now for a completely different reason.

So as it stands now, we are currently separated but I can’t help but dream of the day when we will be reunited and I will once again follow that sweet soulless voice of technology.

Until then, my friend.

Until then.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Fight Club

I caught a lot of flack for the “happy ending” to my column a couple of weeks about my Girlfriend and I chasing down a copy of the “Jesse James” DVD. It is never my intent to offend anyone so I would like to publicly apologize for our happiness and trying to shove it down everyone’s throat.

Life is not always Vanilla Coke and roses for us, so I thought I would try to balance out the sappiness of that column with a tale of horror and despair regarding our relationship.

The only annoying problem was that I couldn’t come up with anything.

My Girlfriend and I really don’t ever fight or get into arguments about anything serious (a main reason we got together). Sure, we have our differences and disagreements but we’ve always believed that if you really don’t want to take the time and energy it requires to fight and subsequently apologize, then you shouldn’t have to.

Call us crazy.

The truly bizarre phenomenon in our relationship, however, is that while we don’t argue about anything of substance, we have apocalyptic battles over the most ridiculous topics. While other couples struggle with things like communication, family problems and finances, we have almost broken up because of trivial issues like card games, women’s basketball, and walnuts.

Yes, walnuts.

Case in point: we lived through an episode recently that took the cake. Blood was almost shed, cops were almost called, and straight jackets were almost necessary.

We had just gotten into the car after seeing the new movie “Vantage Point” (set entirely in Spain) when the following exchange took place word-for-word:

Her: Why do the movies always make Hispanic men more attractive than Mexican men?

(Instead of questioning why she was contemplating the attractiveness of other men, I chose the road less traveled)

Me: What??

Her: In movies, Hispanic men are always more attractive than Mexican men.

(As crazed confusion began to seize my brain, the car and road around me now appeared to be spinning)

Me: What are you talking about? Mexican men are Hispanic! They’re the same thing!

Her: No they’re not. Mexican men are from Mexico and Hispanics are from Spain.

(It’s usually me that lets things escalate. Fortunately for us, I stayed true to form here)

Me: WHAT?? Mexican and Hispanic mean the same thing for people from Mexico. Spanish people are from Spain!

Her: Spanish is a language, not people!

Me: Are you kidding me?!

(At this point, I was questioning my entire existence so I did not clearly think through what I was about to say next. My girlfriend has yet to let me forget it).

Me: People from Spain are called… Spaniards!

(Yikes. Here it comes)

Her: SPANIARDS?? Maybe in the 16th Century!

(Yep, I walked into that one)

Her: Besides, you don’t call people from England “English”!


(Now we are officially yelling and it only took us 47 seconds. Our personal best)



Grasping for sanity, I gathered my wits and called my aunt – who is a high school Spanish teacher – to settle the dispute.

Turns out we were both kind of right.

Apparently, the term “Hispanic” used to refer to people from Hispania (modern day Spain, Portugal, Andorra, Gibraltar, and a small part of southern France). It now refers to anyone who speaks Spanish, and specifically, people groups in Latin America.

So she was right.

But, it should also be noted, that people from Spain can be referred to as Spanish – or more formerly, SPANIARDS!

So I was right too.

Since we had both been mildly validated, a new set of complications arose as neither one of us was about to concede the argument now. We spent the rest of the evening festering and annoyed.

There you go.

No happy ending. No mushy wrap-up. We are just as flawed a couple as anyone else, if not more so.

And for those of you worried that I might get in trouble when my Girlfriend reads this, don’t worry; this is way too legitimate of a subject for us to squabble over.

Knowing us, our next fight will probably be over something really important like song lyrics or free-falling rollercoaster rides or dogs wearing pajamas or…

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Weekly Entertainment Report (3/6/08)

> If John Travolta Mated With a Muppet
I read one "American Idol" recap that declared Jason Castro's performance of "Hallelujah" on Tuesday night so amazing that we will be talking about it for years to come. I think I'm missing something. I mean, it was good but I enjoyed David Cook's rock/emo cover of "Hello" and Michael John's "Don't Forget About Me" a whole lot more.

I like Castro but all I can think about whenever I see him is that if this guy mated with this guy we would end up with Jason.

It's just too creepy.

Other than the names I mentioned, I really am bored watching the other guys at this point. Even WonderKid David Archuleta was a little dull this week. And he better calm down with his whole "I picked this song because it has a good message about helping homeless people" thing. No one wants a contestant to be that perfect. He needs a little edge or the rest of us mere mortals will turn on him eventually.

As far as the girls, there are five that I legitimately like and would enjoy watching their careers grow over the coming years (in no particular order: Syesha, Carly, Kristy Lee, Kady, and Brooke). Unfortunately I have a bad feeling that one of them, if not two, will be going home this week. Kady somehow avoided elimination last week and I was hoping for something big from her to gain some momentum last night. Her performance wasn't necessarily bad but it wasn't life-altering, which it had to be, so I think it might be the end of the road for her tonight. I was also hoping for another bad performance from Amanda to get her off the show as well but she actually did come through with one of the night's best outings. If she sticks around, it could be bad news from Kristy Lee, who was actually really good with the country twist that she put on Journey's "Faithfully"; but like Simon pointed out: she wasn't memorable enough, so she could be in trouble if Amanda gains in the voting.

Who I want to go home: Definitely Luke Menard and any one of David H., Danny N., or Chikezie from the guys and I would love to see Amanda and Ramiele get ousted from the girls, but I honestly don't see either one leaving.

Who I think is going home: Definitely Luke and I'm going to say Chikezie from the guys and unfortunately Kady and Kristy Lee from the girls.

I still can't believe that I've gone 3-for-4 the last two weeks so I hope this is the week I'm totally wrong... In regards to the girls that is.

> Semi-Pro is only Semi-Funny
I was so excited about Will Ferrell's new movie "Semi-Pro" which opened last weekend; so excited in fact that I attended the midnight premiere last Thursday night with my buddies Gray and Kevin.
The movie has been met with tepid reviews and a poor opening box office and sadly, I'm not too surprised. While Will Ferrell could make me laugh reading the phone book, the film's "R" rating took his typical outrageous, yet controlled style found in his usual "PG-13" fare to just plain outrageous levels that just got old after about 45 minutes.

I kept trying to make myself like the movie and whenever you find yourself forcing an emotion like that, you eventually have to accept the inevitable truth that... on second thought, scratch that, Ferrell is still king, baby!!

> All Aboard!
We try to keep things clean here on "The Pop and Culture Show" as much as possible, so I am not going to post the brand new uncut, R-rated trailer of Seth Rogen's new film "Pineapple Express" (opens August 8). In fact, I'm going to further appease my hypocritical conscience by not even providing the link; but if you want to go find it, I definitely recommend it.


You know what? Now that I'm thinking about Ferrell and Rogen, I really want to expand this discussion on tonight's show (check us out at midnight tonight on 88.7FM WFOS or look for the rebroadcast of the show tomorrow right here on our myspace page).

So I want to hear from you now to help us with that topic tonight. Who is currently reigning as the King of Comedy in Hollywood??

Is it Ferrell or is it Rogen?

Or is it someone else all together?? Let me know what you think...

Monday, March 3, 2008

I Know, I Know...

I know that I’m supposed to write a regular formatted column on Mondays but with everything that has gone on in the past few days in regards to the Oscars column I wrote last Thursday, I couldn’t resist posting a few more thoughts.

If you haven’t gotten a chance to read it yet, here is the link (it's long, so pace yourself). As you can see below the actual column, there were some interesting comments posted by my good friends Paul and Heidi (along with a lengthy response from me to Paul’s comment). I was really excited when I saw Paul’s comments because I had not gone into as much depth as I wanted to because I was afraid it was going too long; but when someone was challenging me on it, I was stoked to have the opportunity to keep going.

Needless to say, beyond that posting, I have also received other spirited emails and phone calls the past few days, so I did just want to revisit the subject one last time before I move on.

Paul and I have actually had multiple discussions beyond the comments posted and he conceded some points and I conceded some points and we actually realized we really weren’t that far off in our thinking. I thought Heidi’s comments were excellent and probably represent the majority of most people’s feelings towards the Oscars.

But I want to hear from everyone else.

What are your thoughts on the Oscars? Do you care who wins best picture anymore (if ever)? Do you try to see Oscar nominated films? Have the Oscar pictures gotten too artsy and independent for you or do you really enjoy Oscar-type films?

I came to a realization during my many conversations I had with many different people over the weekend and this will be my last point.

One thing Paul was absolutely correct on was when he challenged me to name five “mainstream” films from last year that should or could have been nominated over the five that were.

I couldn’t do it.

For me, “Dan in Real Life”, “Knocked Up”, and “3:10 to Yuma” were the best films I saw last year and with the exception of maybe “Yuma”, none of the three are really "Oscar" films.

Heidi suggested “American Gangster”, “The Bourne Ultimatum”, and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”. All were big budget films produced by major studios and were heavily hyped and promoted prior to their release. I don’t think that it’s a stretch that in years past, any one of these could have been nominated, but here’s the thing: other than maybe “American Gangster”, never once did you feel like these films were on their way to being nominated this year.

This got me thinking and I couldn’t help but look up what studios produced the 2008 nominated films and I kind of got my answer to this whole issue.

Of the five nominated films this year, only one (“Michael Clayton”) was produced by one of the “Big Six” Hollywood studios (Columbia, 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney/Touchstone, Warner Bros., Paramount, and Universal).

The other four nominated films were all produced by the arthouse/indie subsidiaries of each studio. “No Country for Old Men” was produced by Paramount Vantage (subsidiary of Paramount) along with Miramax, “Atonement” by Focus Features (Universal), “Juno” by Fox Searchlight (20th Century Fox), and “There Will Be Blood” was also produced by Paramount Vantage (“Michael Clayton” was produced by 20th Century Fox).

This is a big shift when you think that in 2003 (not that long ago), only one of the five nominated films wasn’t produced by a major studio (“Lost in Translation”) – and I know that there have always been smaller studios producing Oscar nominated films and there has never been a year when only blockbusters have been nominated.

But this was my realization: maybe the major studios aren’t even trying to make Oscar nominated films anymore. Now that they’ve firmly established these productive arthouse subsidiaries that are credible combined with the trend of big name actors looking for “Oscar” roles, the big studios seem content to just focus on cranking out the big budget blockbusters.

It’s something to keep an eye on.

Paul wanted to see all five nominated films this year and for the most part enjoyed them. He said it was cool to see a pseudo-slasher film take home Best Picture. I, personally, had no interest in the majority of the nominated films this year. I don’t get the other growing trend with recent Best Picture films that you have to been grim and violent to win.

Does all of this diminish the quality of these films or their qualifications to be recognized?

Absolutely not.

But for someone like me, this is going to be a tough trend to swallow on Oscar nights in the future as well as when I try to go to the movie theater. As I mentioned before, I consider myself a discerning moviegoer so big budget fare like the “Spiderman” franchise isn’t going to get it done for me; but at the same time overly brooding and bleak movies aren’t what I’m looking for either.

The fact that films like “A Few Good Men”, “The Fugitive”, "Jerry Maguire" and “Quiz Show” could get an Oscar nomination in years past, it’s clear that there used to be a mainstream, yet sophisticated middle ground for moviegoers that is now fading away.