written by Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad and Michael Gordon, directed by Snyder. I’ve not read the comic book 300 by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, as I’m not much of a Frank Miller fan to begin with. I’ve enjoyed some of his works and others not so much, but that’s beside the point, I didn’t have much frame of reference as to what to expect out of the story. What I do know is Miller, with Varley, has a very distinctive illustrative style, and that style, as witnessed with Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation of Sin City in 2005, that style can be mimicked on the big screen with great success.
I was kept abreast on 300’s development from the various internet news and rumour sites, and from all reports was that the director of the Dawn of the Dead remake was putting together something special. The still photos that emphasized the digital colouring palette that Snyder had developed indicated that, at the very least, it would be pretty. Still photos mirrored against Miller’s sequential art showed the film would also be sticking fairly close to its source. This is exciting as a fan, but also leaves one wary, as, at this stage I understand that comics and film are two distinctive media and one does not easily translate well into the other.
The trailers hit the internet a few months back, television about a month ago, and the theaters around the same time. They were, simply put, gorgeous, like moving masterpieces… I felt a little overjoyed the first time I saw the full trailer and got a little teary at its beauty. Expectations immediately rode high. Over repeated viewings of the trailer, I manged to reduce my excitement somewhat, recalling fondly my less than fond thoughts about Frank Miller’s storytelling and picking apart the trailer, and worrying about the, perhaps, over usage of slow motion photography (”Spartans are all bionic men”, I quipped, referring to the 6 Million Dollar Man’s penchant for moving in slow motion whenever activating his Bionic powers).
Aden got free passes to see an advance screening of 300 last night at the Scotia Bank Theater (formerly Paramount). The show was a late one, expected to start at 9:00, but knowing the fan frenzy that surrounds the film I thought it wise to go early. We stepped in line around 7:30 but even still we were at least 150 people back. The waiting game, in all it’s suckage, commenced.
The two people ahead of us were chatting away for about 10 minutes when some obvious acquaintances of theirs stopped by. They pulled apart the flimsy nylon barrier and let their friends into line. It irked me, certainly, but I’ve been privvy to a butt-in or two in my lifetime, and being one or two people behind doesn’t hurt all that much. It was when a crowd of seven or so other people arrived 40 minutes later, and then the original guy who’d been standing there started letting them all into the very confined space they had in line that I, Aden, and the two ladies behind me got very vocal.
“You can’t just be letting a half dozen people in line,” I said to the guy.
“It’s okay, he said, “we all work at the same store.”
“That’s not an excuse,” I said back.
“They should have gotten here earlier,” Aden said.
“Well, we’re all together,” he retorted back.
“Back of the line!” One of the ladies behind us yelled.
And then the guy just laughed and turned and ignored us, proceeding to let this cluster of people in.
I recognize these assholes. They work for 1,000,000 Comics on Yonge Street. I don’t shop there often, but I do shop there… or I did, but not anymore. A little decorum and tact in society goes a long way, and that includes being respectful of others, whether it’s getting in line at a movie theater or dealing with customers in your store. It’s a minor thing, but it does make a difference.
Just thought I’d also note I saw much of the crew from Silver Snail there as well, and they waved at each other and said hi to each other when they arrived, but they all took their proper places in line.
So yes, effective today, no matter how in need I am of a comic, action figure or other geek junkie related crap I am, I’m not shopping at 1,000,000 Comics anymore. You bypass the “On Notice” board and head straight for the “Dead To Me”.
Have I even posted an update about the goings-on over at Rack Raids in the past month?
It’s been a long three weeks, in any case… with one week being rather light on the Raidage, at least from me, due to illness (still did manage to pump one out though).
Soo, starting with the return of Captain Marvel in Shazam! The Monster Society Of Evil #1 (decent but also confusing and not as kid friendly as I had hoped), I then took a dose of yearly magic with the Action Comics Annual #10 (it’s funny that a comic that’s been around 70 years has only 10 annuals).
I couldn’t stop there, no! I had to take another look at Utopiates since the second issue was so much better than the first. But as the facts of life teach you, you take the good and you take the bad, like the end of Steel’s story in 52 week 40 contrasting against the end of Elongated Man’s saga in 52 week 42.
I received, to my delight, a copy of the Heartbreak trade which I had originally reviewed in my early days at Thor’s Comic Column. It’s a beautiful edition, worth a look for the lovelorn.
The week of sick saw me catch up on my thrizzles, with a review of the latest Tales Designed to Thrizzle. Awesomeness incarnate it is. But I bounced back with one of my best review weeks ever:
Brave and the Bold #1 - classic superheroics
Rex Libris #7 - not only reads better every issue but keeps looking better too
Ex Machina: Inside the Machine - supplementary creative material for fans with money to spend only
Local #8 - which is just like Shopgirl, only in Chicago instead of LA
Gear trade paperback which was the groundworks for the awesome cartoon “Catscratch”, but this isn’t for the wee ones.
Checkmate Vol. 1: A King’s Game - which is awesome espionage and politics with superheroes.
There’s a lot of reading on the raid outside of my reviews… Civil War gets a crackdown, Stephen King’s Dark Tower comic, Hellboy animate and more. RackRaids.com my friends. We’re the only “just reviews” comic book website on the internets (that’s not an actual fact, but it could be!)
Book: Never Mind The Pollacks by Neal Pollack
Purchased: July 16, 2006
Start reading date: February 03, 2007
Finished reading: February 25, 2007
Total days taken to read the book: 22
Average reading speed: 11.8 pg/day
Every time I read from this book I had a sour taste in my mouth. Neal Pollack writes his own “biography” under the guise of rock critic Paul St. Pierre. Pollack, in the novel, is essentially responsible for discovering or making the bulk of the great musicians from the latter half of the 20th century, beginning with Elvis and ending with Cobain (with the Rolling Stones, Dylan, Iggy Pop, the Ramones, George Clinton and others in between), all the while touting himself “the greatest rock and roll critic to ever live”. It’s an absurd romp through the gestation and evolution of rock music, wherein the critic deems himself more important than the art… I’m still not sure if this point was intended to be hammered home ironically or not. It’s mildly amusing but mostly aggravating ( whether tongue-in-cheeck or not) self-aggrandizing page after page.
“Alone above all the arts, rock criticism stands. At its best, criticism topples music, because at its best, it’s music combined with literature.”
There’s statements like this strewn throughout the book. Yes, I’m of half a mind to believe they’re intentionally overwrought for comedic intents, but as the saying goes, behind every joke there’s a little truth. Somewhere, deep down, Pollack believes this drivel that criticism outweighs the art it examines. The book, well, it’s a waste of time, for the most part, but it provoked me, which I guess gives it purpose, if nothing else.
Please, to all the Chicken Littles who keep running around decreeing the death of the comics industry:
“According to the ICv2 White Paper presented at the Conference, graphic novel sales through retail stores in the U.S. and Canada were around $330 million at retail last year, compared to $310 million in sales of comic periodicals. This is the first time since the origination of the comics medium that book format comics have outsold traditional comic books. The $640 million total also represents the highest sales for the comic and graphic novel market since the early 90s.”
Sigh. It’s not dying… it’s changing… perhaps not fast enough, but it’s hardly time to start writing it off. More breakdown of the the numbers (purely hypotheticals mind you) in the link.
Toast, please reply
It seems to me that the marketing meme of positioning manga as an empty-calorie gateway for “real comics” is getting a little out of control. It’s like manga is nothing but mashed peas or strained apricots, perfectly fine until you have all of your teeth and can start enjoying solids, but nothing a person of discernment would ever favor, provided they knew what else was out there.
Toast, remind me what you told me yesterday about Manga as it’s seen in Japan…
written by Fernley Phillips, directed by Joel Schumacher. I want to like The Number 23 simply because it would be so easy to dismiss it. Jim Carrey’s career as a straight actor has been decent and the guy does have a genuinely likeable screen presence, but in these roles, he can also lose focus and return to rubber-faced antics. At the same time Joel Schumacher still can’t escape the stigma of a gaudy storyteller, and Carrey really needs a strong director for more serious roles to keep him reigned in. Carrey does indeed perform admirably as a man further broaching the cusp of sanity, but it was interesting to hear some of this film’s audience snickering at his every phrase or movement early on, like an automatic response that everything he does is intended for laughs. Schumacher, meanwhile, tries valiantly to transform his storytelling into something resembling craft, but he can only sustain a certain vision for the first act of the film before he turns to his usual tendency for bold lighting and straightforward filmmaking.
The idea behind The Number 23 was intriguing, that a man finds an independently published, untraceable, anonymously written book that has apparent coincidences with his own life which begin to drive him to obsession, not just with the book, but it’s characters, its creator, and the book’s fascination with the coincidences found surrounding the number 23. This leads Carrey’s character down a slippery slope, where he begins seeing the number everywhere, and begins appropriating aspects of the book’s story as his own life and personality.
The warm spell of the past few days is still in full effect, but Old Mangy Winter isn’t calling it a season just yet.
We gots dumped on:
A few more photos from today on my neglected Flickr account.
There’s some beautiful ice formations under the BOBTown fire escape, and on the BOBTown neighbour’s wall. The pictures barely do it justice… here’s a couple for those too lazy to click:
There’s some bad mojo jojo going on out there today folks. It may look sunny and warm in Toronto but there’s some bad shit going down.
I got a feeling.
It’s like there’s a breach in the Hellmouth.
Well, it’s official:
Party at BOBTown on Saturday, March 10th.
The Evite has been sent, but since this is my first grand co-hosting party (with this guy) and we’re both novices, we kinda suck at the whole people assembling thing. So if we missed you (some of the people I’d normally have invited were left off the list due to being in other countries and stuff), leave a comment and you’ll get an invitation to the hottest pad party in downtown Toronto.
Well, maybe not the hottest… it’s kinda drafty.
written and directed by Mark Stephen Johnson. I’ll say it up front: it is just as bad as the commercials make it look, but it’s not as bad as you would expect. The fact that it’s another Marvel Comics character brought to screen by the same man that did Daredevil may put the fear into some, but I actually liked Daredevil for pretty much the same reason some people believe they’ve seen UFOs.
Ghost Rider isn’t exactly a household name, and next to his flaming skull and motorbike, there’s little about Ghost Rider except his name that people are aware of. What’s his origin? I don’t know. What are his powers? Don’t know. What’s his motivation? Nope. Supporting cast? Nada. Secret Identity? Johnny Blaze. Well, 1 out of 5 isn’t bad… wait, yes it is. And as you know, I’m a pretty committed comics nerd so if I don’t know much about the character, Joe Public is going to know less. With an obviously low fanbase and a general audience ignorance, this should give the filmmakers a lot of freedom to do something interesting with a very limited-use character… but it doesn’t really happen.
I owned a laserdisc player years before DVD came along, and it was on that format (that annoying format where you’d have to flip the disc, sometimes switching discs and then flipping that one, just to watch a complete movie) that I first discovered audio commentaries and special features. It was the saving grace of the format (ignoring the fact that it was visually and audibly superior to videocassette, unless you care about such things). Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Clerks, and the Criterion Collection made me a fan of audio commentaries, so when DVD came along and promised not only to put a full movie on one disc (which it’s held with the exception of Lawrence of Arabia, Seven Samurai and a couple others) but to bring that kind special detail to all movies, well, I was excited.
I was an early adopter of DVD (1999, when a basic player still ran about $400+), and for the first two years I was in a buying frenzy. I couldn’t get enough of DVDs, audio commentaries and special features. I still have an affection for them, but over the past few years, my DVD collection (of movies anyway) has only marginally increased and of those that I’ve purchased or rented, I’ve perused the special features or listened to audio commentary on less than 10%. With rentals sometimes it was a time factor, and lack of time, but generally my interest in audio commentaries, featurettes, and other such “special edition” goodies has waned.
Over the past few days, dealing with my aggravated intestines, I’ve been catching up on a few of the special features and commentary tracks of the movies that I own, and it was listening to the “dinner and a commentary” track from Nacho Libre that I understood why… there’s nothing worth listening to on most commentary tracks.
What happened was that “special editions” were so popular that they became the norm. There’s no such thing as a truly special “special edition” anymore. The Onion regularly has a column called “Commentaries of the Damned” where they look at commentary tracks on really bad films. Commentary tracks and special editions back in the day were produced so that fans of the film could gain further insight into the film that they love so much. So when a film is made, released, and three months later put out on dvd, little to no time has passed. As such, the fan following hasn’t grown to sizeable enough proportions, and the legacy of the film hasn’t yet solidified. The questions people have about a film aren’t yet fully formulated, so if you get a star and a director to sit down less than a year after producing a film, everything is still fresh to them. Anecdotes are hard to come by because, well, they’re tired of them. They’ve done promotion, told their stories numerous times and moved on. Now they’re contractually forced to sit down and rehash the making of the movie they just did, and chances are they’re just getting them done.
The featurettes on Nacho Libre show that director Jared Hess and actor Jack Black got along famously on the set, and enjoyed each other’s company. On the audio commentary, it’s like their stilted, restrained, and forced to discuss the movie with they probably hashed out at length during the production. Not enough time has passed for them to be nostalgic, and their camaraderie feels under pressure for the sake of producing the commentary track. Compare that to the reunion of John Carpenter and Kurt Russell on The Thing audio commentary. Two old friends who haven’t seen each other catching up and reminiscing. It’s a beautiful thing.
That’s not to say that there can’t be good “immediate” commentary tracks, but for a commentary track to work on a film that was just made, the commentary has to be by someone who has nothing but the utmost continued excitement for the film they made. Guillermo Del Toro or Robert Rodriguez, for instance, both talk rapid-fire about the films they made with tremendous insight into the story of the film and the process of making it. On the flipside, there’s the goofball commentary, like that on Anchorman or the “Elvis” commentary track on Bubba Ho-Tep which aren’t at all insightful or intuitive, but they’re fun and a complete production piece or entertainment on their own. The party track can also be fun… Kevin Smith excelled at that early on, assembling the bulk of his cast to record the commentary… Arrested Development (yes I know it’s TV) also does this very, very well.
I doubt that the studios will stop doing “special features” for all these movies, but I ask them one thing… always add someone who is a little further outside the production to the commentary. Someone who will ask questions and direct focus to things that happen in the film. I think brining in someone who just saw the film and loved it or had questions about it is the best way to comment on the film. Otherwise whats the point of listening to people laugh at their own performances and um-er-ah for two hours?
Let’s make special features special again.
my favourite DVD audio commentaries - a list from October 2003
Onto TV on DVD
The Onion has a piece on 14 neglected TV shows that need to be on DVD. Now, I’ve got a lot of TV on DVD and pretty much have about 90% of everything I could want on DVD, meaning this year is going to be pretty light for me on TV on DVD buying. But there’s a few left I’d still like to see.
My list currently includes:
1) Vengeance Unlimited
2) Watching Ellie
3) Andy Richter Controls The Universe
5) The rest of Space Ghost: Coast To Coast.
Wow, my second podcast mention (the first was Issue 11 of Rock On London) but this one is a little more “me” centric. Chris (he of his Invincible Super-Blog) found my review of Justice League of America #5 on Rack Raids where I launch into the review using Chris’ hatred for the title as groundwork for why I like it, perhaps more than I would otherwise.
I knew ahead of time that Chris, like any good blogger, likes to Google himself on the internets - I mean, we all have an ego that needs feeding, no? - so I knew it was only a matter of time before he came across this review and rebutted. I kind of feared the lash-back, as Chris is a much funnier guy than I am, and, as a friend said at a comedy night where a guy was invited on stage and attempting to steal the comic’s thunder, “it’s never wise to challenge the pro”.
But Chris, bless him, understood what I was getting at. He talks about the review in his latest RadioISB podcast installment. He not only addresses my point of his often minimalist reviewing style, but is also able to make a joke of it. And he makes the point that his goal is to make comics more enjoyable “especially the really, really bad ones… like Justice League.” Even better, Chris kicks off the segment stating “As for people’s opinions who actually do count…” which swells me up with the warm fuzzies. Thanks Chris.
Oh, and thanks for the plug of Rack Raids, which to be honest, was really what mentioning the ISB in the review was all about, narf!
In looking over this site’s info on food poisoning, it seems to me that that’s what I had, although what kind of food poisoning, I don’t know and where it stemmed from I can’t say either.
Today is acceptable, although it feels like I have an uncomfortable truce forged with my stomach. My sister recommended some helpful suggestions like yogurt, lots of fibre and nuts and seeds to help clean up my innards. I’m hoping it works. I realize that although I didn’t eat much yesterday, much of what I did had some sugar content in it, which I realize now is not a good thing. So I’m on a new plan of attack, which hopefully will work out.
I got an urgent message from my keester at 6:30 this morning and have been up ever since, so I’m tired and a little cranky.
The day after the duo-directional evacuation of my internal digestive systems, I’m still (obviously?) not 100%. While verily I feel normal in the head (which is in sharp contradiction to my in-and-out of consciousness act of yesterday) my stomach still argues with me, although not quite the wailing banshee that it was the night previous.
I actually managed to score a full eight hours of prime Morpheus territory last night, which is good in that I felt rested, however all is far from better. My stomach perpetually burbles, and there’s a fizzyness to my burps which I find hard to explain. Anything I eat doesn’t hang around for very long, and generally I’m uncomfortable, not to mention the fact that occasionally I release a gaseous weapon of mass disgust-ion (there’s many reasons why I worked from home today, and respect for my neighbours topped the list).
Anyway, still not certain what caused all of this, but I’m hoping it wasn’t anything contagious. Aden certainly wasn’t affected, other than her concern for me, however I just got word from her that the wee one has to leave day care due to diarrhea. Hoping it wasn’t anything transmitted from point A to point B. But then, her brother also has been sick as of late which may have some impact on the scenario.
I’m hoping less disgusting topics can be broached in the coming days.
I’m paraphrasing, but the basic gist of then Radio Escapades, now CBC Radio 3 podcast host Grant Lawrence was that he was buckled over on all fours, spewing hot vomitous from one end and spraying wet feces from the other. Grant, back in 2002, had contracted the Norwalk virus while out of the country, and it didn’t sound like a pleasant affair.
My sister, a few years ago, also had a run-in with the pesky virus, which can be fatal if you get dehydrated. I’m not saying that what I had last night was Norwalk, it may well have been food poisoning or a stomach bug, but in any case, it was one of the worst nights of my life.
Aden was a trooper through all of it, and whatever affected me only seemed to get to her in a very mild dose. I don’t think my stomach felt right for the previous two days, but it was climbing into bed last night, finally calming down, that I noticed it. There was a sharp pain at the front of my belly but without any cramping, certainly nothing like the sensation of diarrhea. The pain felt more like that when I drink a potent orange juice and the acidity doesn’t sit right… but this was even more confined and direct.
I felt fatigued, and tried falling asleep around 10:30, but I was having difficulty getting comfortable. After an hour I decided that whatever demons were living in my stomach needed to be released, and it didn’t take much provocation to get them out. I felt a little better but not much. I felt very very cold, and there was an awkward stiffness crawling up my spine. I managed to sleep for half an hour before I woke up, realized what was happening, and hit the toilet expunging everything I thought I had in me. I drank two big glasses of water, trying to keep my throat from getting acid burned and hopefully to settle my stomach. I crawled back into bed. Aden was pretty concerned, and I couldn’t do much but apologize. I was shaking uncontrollably, my back a wreck of pain, my legs fatigued to the point of pain. I laid down but every position was uncomfortable. My bowels screamed.
I went back to the toilet and evacuated, but in the process my stomach churned and I had but one option to bound towards the sink as a high-pressure spray of the water I drank earlier completely left my system. My nose ran, tears streamed down my face, and I could barely stand I was shaking so much. I drank some more water, another couple of huge glasses. They didn’t sit right but I knew they needed to be in there. I told Aden I needed to take a hot shower, hoping to cease the shivering. After twenty minutes the shivering stopped, but I needed to bolt from the shower and regurgitate the water I drank.
I toweled off, drank more water, bundled up and went downstairs to put the kettle on, hoping that the normally stomach soothing mint and ginger tea would help. I stood in front of the fireplace, keeping warm in the drafty apartment, sipping my tea, and drinking another glass of water. I grabbed a blanket and sat down on the couch, hoping that if I slept sitting upright I could actually rest.
About 4am Aden came searching for me, returning with a comforter. She asked if maybe I could come back to bed, I said as long as I could sit up then there shouldn’t be a problem. I went back to bed, but again, my exceedingly sore back and exhausted legs weren’t allowing comfort nor rest. And then my bowels screamed again. Repeat of the previous situation. All was lost, I felt defeated. I didn’t drink nearly as much water, and Aden and I switched locations in the bed. The clock said 6:40.
The alarm went off at 7:27, I had slept the entire time. My body was underneath an array of coverings: a bath robe, a towel, two comfortors, a couple quilted blankets, a pillow, a bedsheet… all covering me in different locations. Aden got up to leave for work, the skylight coated with last night’s heavy snowfall kept the sun out. I tried to go back to sleep, the radio alarm still going, half conscious, half asleep. At 9am I called into work, hoping that they wouldn’t think that I was just being lazy about walking into work after such a heavy snowfall and on another bitterly cold day.
My back and legs still a mess, I drew a bath with epsom salts, and noticed, before I climbed in, that I was at least able to keep some water down. The bath helped relax my pain, although, not completely. I drank glass after glass of water, occasionally tossing some Gatorade mix in to boost the electrolytes and assist in rehydrating. It was about 3:30 when I realized I could tempt fate and actually eat something… dry cereal my food of choice.
I was on the couch in and out of consciousness all day, taking a half hour to check in with work and handle some of the emergencies to the best of my concentration, but rest, and lots of it were really what I needed. I feel insanely groggy still, and sore in places, but I’m not doing too badly. I might be able to make it into work tomorrow, but we’ll have to see how my energy levels are doing.
Definitely not something I wish to repeat though.
written by Mark Wheaton, directed by the Pang Brothers. I have never had a film vacate my brain this quickly before. Certainly I’ve forgotten the particulars of some films as the years have passed and my brain degrades, but after four days the details of The Messengers are as muddy and abstract as the pit within which John Corbett falls at the end of the film.
If you don’t know already, the Messengers is a bad, bad movie. I could lament the fact that, obviously, producer/studio tinkering and reshoots had completely corrupted the story and vision of the Pang Brothers, but that’s really here nor there. The film I saw is the film that was released. In some instances you can grant movies some slack by divining the intentions of the film that were restricted or repressed due to interference or budgetary limitations, in this case, any sort of intent is lost, and what remains is painfully trite and laughable, but not funny and certainly not scary.
Seeing as how Valentine’s Day is this week, both Graig and I have been asked a few times now, by various co-workers for the most part, what it is we’re doing for the BIG DAY.
Neither he nor I are fans of it. I’ve long been of the opinion that if you need a special day, basically designated by corporations, to tell your significant other that you love them and show them you care, etc., well, there’s something wrong with that. So no, I’ve never been a supporter of Valentine’s Day*; I don’t like cards and I prefer flowers that can be planted in my garden to those that will die in a couple of days. Besides, Graig is wonderfully romantic normally and brings me gifts like the trade paperback of Squadron Supreme. I loves him, I do.
So, rather than saying the above in response to those who have inquired or wished us a happy Valentine’s Day in advance (which is a nice thought and we acknowledge it as such), we tell them that we’ve decided we’re going to have our first fight on that day. Problem is, we don’t know what to fight about… We’re very bad at it. We don’t argue as we’ve yet to find anything to argue about. We’re remarkably, disgustingly happy in each other’s presence, so there’s just never been any reason to have an argument. But as its coming down to the Valentine’s Day wire and reservations must be made and whatnot, we thought perhaps we’d better come up with our topic or some such planning. I shared with Graig today the saga of City TV’s Peter Silverman vs. Crazy Optometrist and he suggested maybe going to the guy’s shop and recreating this. Which immediately reminded me of the old Monty Python skit, Batley Townswomens’ Guild presents the Battle of Pearl Harbor, cause that’s just hilarious. So maybe recreations of great fights? Maybe we could be like these guys Marvel Secret Wars Re-enactment Society and recreate various comic book fights? That seems like a possibility…
So yes, if anyone would like to suggest a fight or an argument we can have, please do ;)
Actually, this is all pretty much moot, because on Wednesdays, there are always comic books to be read and Lost to be watched.
*Disclaimer: Just because I do not subscribe to the whole Valentine’s Day thing doesn’t mean I have anything against those who do. I have my idea of what is romantic and Valentine’s Day is not it. But for all those who do find it terribly romantic, all I can say is have at it and enjoy yourselves.
Comedian and Shawn of the Dead star/co-writer Simon Pegg examines the differences in American and British humour. Most of the discussion centers on the use of irony (and Pegg ingeniously utilizes the metaphor of tea time to explain it). It also probes into television grounds which I just explored in the previous post, and has some relevance on my selections below, if after the fact.
Old Man Silver Man v. Crazy Opto Man
Ah, youtube… you bring such joy. Like local CITY TV hero Peter Silverman (a consumer advocate who investigates claims of rip-offs) squaring off against a scam artist optometrist … an encounter that escalated to police involvement (emergency task force) and made its way to CNN.
This is In Your Interest
In other strange media stories, here’s what happens when you lose the audio on your news story about Eagles… in St. Louis at least: musical hilarity ensues. It actually aired, but youtube is bringing it to the masses…
Holy craplitter, this one’s for the gang: One thousand, seven hundred plus pictures of cats…
(also via GAK)
The afro-mentioned GAK is in Japan…he’s working, but also leisurely taking in Tokyo with his monocled image capturing device. TBIT should take interest in this one in particular (and he did, I see by the comments).
Back Back Back Backtalk
In other close friend news, Ryan is blogging again after a 3 month hiatus. Recently, he had a second back surgery and a 3-month stay in the hospital to recoup. Coincidence?
Ryan recounts his stay in this post which is both enlightening and really funny. He’s a remarkable guy.
Really good comedy will make you laugh. Great comedy will change how you laugh, how you communicate and sometimes even how you think. Comedy is so relevant to the time in which it takes place, though. I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners were the biggies for one generation, while genrefied comedy like Get Smart, I Dream of Jeannie and Batman were instrumental in shaping others. The seventies saw some of the first culturally defining comedies with Happy Days (spinning off a half-dozen shows), All In The Family (spinning off another half dozen) and workplace comedies like WKRP in Cincinnati and Taxi. But most of these shows have limited lasting value, with their cultural impact diminishing as they age. A few actually remain funny these days, but most are stuck in the era that they were created for.
Below is a list of television comedies, most from the past 20 years, that changed the way we view humour, and gave us an inordinate amount of shorthand to make each other laugh. In factoring this together, I’ve gaged popularity, prevalence in my own lexicon, influence on subsequent comedies and just how damn good the show is. In some cases one of these factors may override the other, but if you don’t like it, make your own list, or let me know what I missed or how I may have incorrectly ranked things.
1) Arrested Development
Okay, it’s not nearly as popular nor as penetrating as some of the others on this list, but what it just chalks down to is personal preference. This is brilliant from start to finish, but then, that’s how it’s intended. Serialized rather than episodic, it’s ingenious in how it sets up jokes that pay off episodes later. The acting, the writing, the editing, the stories and characters are all incredible, combining to make the best, and perhaps smartest comedy to hit the airwaves, ever. In a few years time when some of the timelier references become dated, this will no double slip down the list, but it will still stand tall based on its bountiful assets.
“are you forgetting that I was a professional twice over - an analyst and a therapist. The world’s first analrapist.”
2) Monty Python’s Flying Circus
40 Years later and it’s still ahead of its time. No other comedy, sketch or otherwise, has had the lasting power and the intellect of Monty Python. It’s surprising how little of the Python’s comedy is rooted in its own time, even though it does satirize, its the eclectic nature of the comedy that has given it longevity. Slapstick, wordplay, buffoonery, melodrama, transvestitism, elitism, pandering and beyond, Python could go anywhere and everywhere and do it like no other.
“Interviewer: Good evening. I have with me in the studio tonight one of Britain’s leading skin specialists - Raymond Luxury Yacht.
Raymond: That’s not my name.
Interviewer: I’m sorry - Raymond Luxury Yach-t.
Raymond: No, no, no - it’s spelt Raymond: Luxury Yach-t, but it’s pronounced ‘Throatwobbler Mangrove’.
Interviewer: You’re a very silly man and I’m not going to interview you.
There isn’t another show out there that has introduced as many catch phrases, one-liners, and boffo neurotic culture-defining concepts as Seinfeld. The nuances of everyday life were exaggerated by four unsympathetic and yet still likable characters, and an ever-increasing parade of unusual secondary characters were responsible for bringing to light the humour in the mundane in a manner that was aggravating but only because you could relate to it.
Jerry: She had man hands.
Elaine: Man hands?
Jerry: The hands of a man. It’s like a creature out of Greek Mythology, I mean, she was like part woman, part horrible beast.
Elaine: Would you prefer it if she had no hands at all?
Jerry: Would she have hooks?
4) The Simpsons
I have to admit, I hate this show now. Seriously, I hate it, and have since the 9th season in which they started rehashing old jokes instead of coming up with new ones and losing in every sense that which made it unique and enjoyable in the first place. But for 6 seasons (seasons 3 through 7, and bits of season 2 and 8) it was the biggest, brightest, and funniest thing on television. Right behind Seinfeld for how prevalent its turns of phrases and humour impacted a generation. It’s perhaps even more quotable than Seinfeld. Of course it was a modernization of the cartoon sitcom that was originated by the Flintstones, but it easily surpassed any influence and became the influence to a generation of animation in its own right.
“Now we play the waiting game… ah waiting game sucks lets play Hungry Hungry Hippos”
5) Saturday Night Live
For all its ups and downs (which are plentiful and often), Saturday Night Live was the first late-night sketch comedy to be successful, launching dozens upon dozens of big-time careers and became the first water-cooler comedy. Not only that but it was really America’s first true dose of politcal satire… though hardly done well by other standards, it’s influence is undeniable. Though most of its comedy is stuck in the now, there’s about two hours of lasting comedy gold that can be extracted from each season (with the 84-85 and 94-95 seasons as horrible exceptions).
Latest talk is that David Robinson is over the hill. But in my book, you gotta get to White Castle before the weirdos show up! Tonight at the Alamodome, he gets Happy-Go-Jackie on the big white guy like a donkey eating a waffle! Sweet Sassy Molassey! Get out the checkbook and pay grandma for the rubdown as the Spurs beat the Heat, 86-79! Stuart!
If you’re talking straight “live before a studio-audience” comedy, nothing, and I mean, nothing beats Cheers. Nothing. To this day it’s the funniest conventional situation comedy, and it’s mammoth success could never be duplicated (well…except by Friends, which was also a funny show, I begrudgingly admit, but it’s trendiness disqualifies it from being anywhere on this list). The talent was perfect in every aspect, and the bar became a welcoming home for every wayward soul, including the viewer. There’s not a warmer, friendlier or funnier American comedy. It’s the bridge between the classic 50’s comedies and the more aggressive 90’s comedies.
Woody: What’s up Mr. Petersen?
Norm: My nipples, it’s freezing out there.
7) The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
One could say that the Daily Show exists because of Saturday Night Live, and it’s true, in part. It also owes a huge debt of gratitude to Michael Moore’s brand of satirical interviewing of real people (also see: Da Ali G Show). But the show has grown into something much more important, an outlet for an angry nation to make light of its plight, it’s dire situations, and to actually reflect upon the world - politics and media primarily - which just can’t seem to find its way. Of course, silly, fraternity-friendly humour abounds, but it’s Jon Stewart’s influence that make’s the show important, dosing the college kids with some bitter truth medicine by sugaring it up with comedy. Though This Hour Has 22 Minutes has been doing it far longer (The Day Today, in the UK, also pulling it off) it was the Daily Show that signaled the arrival of the Rick Mercer Report, and then spun off the right-wing pundit satire of The Colbert Report.
“Scientists have known for years that television is good for children: it sharpens their passive staring skills, it shields them from the sun’s harmful rays and it gives them something to do while their parents are drinking.”
8) Father Ted
The first of Graham Linehan’s “cast of three” comedies, Father Ted is a delightful, hilarious and loving farce about Catholic priests living in a parochial house on a remote Irish island. Father Ted is the straight man, but his temptations with women and gambling always seem to get the better of him. Father Dougal is, well, low in brain power, and seems to be in the church if only so that he doesn’t hurt himself. Father Jack sleeps quietly in the corner, waking only to drink, curse or to beat up on someone. This short description doesn’t do it justice in the slightest. Black Books and The IT Crowd followed from Linehan and actually exceed Ted in hilarity, but I have a soft spot for this, because it was the first.
Mrs Doyle: Now come on Father, what would you say to a nice cup of tea?
Father Jack: FECK OFF CUP
9) Late Night with David Letterman
Bringing apathy, ridicule, smarmyness, malaise and goofyness to, at first, the college kids, and then the world. Letterman’s goofy, gap-toothed smile and attraction to the ridiculous took late-night talk shows to a whole different level. Making celebrities out of strange folk was his calling card, one he carried over brilliantly when he transition to the Late Show on CBS, stepping his game up a couple notches, and being some of the best daily comedy for nearly two or three years. He paved the way for Conan O’Brien to delve even further into absurdity and juvenile humour for adults, but for a good long while Letterman was a king.
Can a guy in a bear suit get a hug from a stranger?
10) Space Ghost: Coast To Coast
The first 15-minute comedy, the first 15-minute talk show, and the first talk show to be hosted by a cartoon character. Space Ghost was also the first repurposed cartoon to hit the airwaves, the cartoon that eventually launched the Adult Swim line-up which eventually would shut down Boston with an advertising campaign. But that’s neither here nor there, owing in spirit to Letterman, but branching out far, far beyond in absurdity as it progressed through the years, it’s roster of B- and C-level celebrity interviews took backstage to bizarre and unique storytelling. Other Adult Swim shows are funnier or more bizarre, true, but SG: C2C is the true original. You wouldn’t have Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law, Sealab 2021, Wonder Showzen, TV Funhouse or any of the other great, surreal, faux-kiddie shows that have been pushing the boundaries of comedy for the past decade without it.
Space Ghost: Tell me, Chuck, ever thought of starring in a sequel to The Ten Commandments?
Charlton Heston: Uh, I don’t think so.
Space Ghost: Not a sequel man, eh?
Charlton Heston: What other commandments are we going to write?
Zorak: Thou that smelled it thine own self dealt it.
Space Ghost: [laughs] Thou that smelled it thine own self dealt it.
Zorak: [fake laugh] Jerk.
Charlton Heston: Yeah, well…
Moltar: Thou shalt not… hesitate.
Charlton Heston: I’m kind of committed to the first ten.
Zorak: Thou shalt not be committed to old commandments!
Space Ghost: Zorak, one more commandment out of you, and thou shalt be blasted!
Moltar: Thou shalt not mess with Zorak, or thou shalt have to mess with me!
Space Ghost: All right, everybody, just calm down!
Moltar: Thou shalt not calm down!
Charlton Heston: I hesitate…
Moltar: Thou shalt not hesitate!
11) South Park
While the Simpsons may have paved the way, South Park took off on its own path, pushing the boundaries of good taste in every direction, and coming up with a handful of goofy quotables every episode. While the Simpsions may have been content to be pop-culture icons, South Park creators Parker and Stone rallied against their success and went counter-culture, and after two seasons or so turned their sights on making comedy via deconstruction. Tearing down popular culture, ripping apart politics, demystifying religion and taking apart society through poop and vomit jokes, South Park isn’t afraid of anything, and they test the censor’s limit with each subsequent episode. Slander and libel aren’t an issue thanks to parody laws (bless them), but beneath the jokes and gross-out humour lies truth.
Gerald: You see, Kyle, we live in a liberal, democratic society. And democrats make sexual harrassment laws. These laws tell us what we can and can’t say in the workplace, and what we can and can’t do in the workplace.
Kyle: Isn’t that fascism?
Gerald: No, because we don’t call it fascism. Do you understand?
Kyle: Do you?
12) Kids In The Hall
The Kids In The Hall owe a lot to SCTV, Saturday Night Live and Monty Python, but through 5 seasons, broadcast on CBC in Canada and rebroadcast in the US on CBS and HBO, the Kids redefined sketch comedy. Pushing up against the rules of what was acceptable for comedy, they didn’t shy away from sex, gay or straight (and beyond), and their aptitude for the surreal has been imitated but never bettered (see also: Mr. Show, the Chappelle Show). They took the production sketch to new heights, and understood how to use their own meager cult of celebrity to make fun of themselves. Plus, they introduced the world to Kevin McDonald, and for that we should all be grateful.
“We’ve been coming here for 50 years and performing anal probes, and all that we have learned is that one in ten doesn’t really seem to mind.”
13) The Cosby Show
To my mind from the ages of 8 through 13, there was nothing funnier than the Cosby Show. I grew up with Rudy, Vanessa and Theo, and even when cute kid Olivia joined the cast, it still didn’t jump the shark. A little older and wiser, the latter seasons of Cosby’s juggernaut of family comedy just didn’t hold the same prestige, but for many years, and rightfully so, Cosby ruled the airwaves. The power of The Cosby Show cannot be underestimated, considering, especially the fact that it solidified NBC as the channel to watch on Thursday night, a title that was only recently relinquished with the success of CSI. Even still, no one has done a family comedy like this before nor since, and not even to mention the fact that this was a black family that Americans welcomed into their homes by the millions and didn’t just laugh with, but also relate to them. Though Cosby has had a minimal career since he ended the show (a couple mediocre sit com successes and a non-career in the movies), he’s still today one of America’s biggest father figures, and what’s more, I’ve caught repeats over the years and it’s still incredibly funny.
“I am your father. I brought you into this world, and I’ll take you out! “
14) The Larry Sanders Show
Garry Shandling set the precedent for mocumentary-style behind-the-scenes shows like Sports Night, The Newsroom, The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, 30 Rock, and was one of the forerunners of purely adult comedy. There’s a certain schadenfreude to the show that one gets as the lead characters persistently go through the wringer in their professional and personal lives. The acting by Shandling is good, but Jeffrey Tambor steals every episode, and the celebrity guest cast, always in mind of spoofing themselves dates the show a little but is nonetheless entertaining.
Quote: Hank : Well I’m not into interracial dating, it never works - sex is good but in the mornign cultural differences start to raise their ugly heads.
Larry: I believe the cultural differences would occur with you and any woman Hank.
15) Mystery Science Theatre 3000
The idea was simple… taking the experience of making fun of a film from the theater to the living room, so it’s a huge surprise that it’d never really been done before. But Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (MST3K) didn’t just mock films, they mocked bad films (and classic high school filmstrips)… really really bad films. The brilliance behind the show was its selection of not the worst movies, but the best worst movies… the kind of movies that are endearingly awful, and in most cases, excessively low budget. These films, generally, are unintentionally funny, but it wasn’t until the MST3K crew came along that the films were palatable and actually worth watching. The creators behind the scenes are craftsmen and comedians, not just winging it in front of the screen. By adding a backdrop to the screenings (Mike/Joel was sent into space and forced to watch bad films by their captors) and giving the cast something else to do at commercial breaks, it’s a simple concept appended and executed. It can’t be duplicated, but I would certainly welcome its return.
Narrator: They converse pleasantly while Dad serves.
Mike [as Daughter]: No, I- I’ll just have Saltines.
Narrator: I said “pleasantly”, for that is the keynote at dinnertime. It is not only good manners, but good sense.
Crow [as Narrator]: Emotions are for ethnic people.
Narrator: Pleasant, unemotional conversation helps digestion.
Servo [as Narrator]: I can’t stress “unemotional” enough.
Looney Toons - It spawned an empire. The brothers Warner would be nowhere without them.
The Muppet Show - the only variety show ever worth a damn
Sex & The City - It’s as if Woody Allen’s neuroses split off into four distinguishable female personas
Spongebob Squarepants - not the first children’s cartoon enjoyed just as much by adults, but easily one of the best and most surreal
The “Aside” sitcom
It may not have started with That ’70’s Show, but with that’s series’ launch and overwhelming success in 1998, the use of fantasy, daydreams and random asides would quickly become a standard for comedic punctuation or punchline. Subsequent shows to also use this technique (and well) include Titus (1999), Family Guy (1999), Malcolm in the Middle (2000), Scrubs (2001), Andy Richter Controls the Universe (2002) and Corner Gas (2004).
This week, on very special episode of Rack Raids:
Tina finds that the Annihilation mini-series comes to an end… tears fall. Meanwhile, Andrew reads The End and picks those tears right up out of the sand, clutching them close to his heart.
But wait… Tubby Tommy comes along eating a big bucket of Ultimate Civil War: Spider Ham, his pudgy face and impeccable one-liner timing bringing a smile to our lovelorn couple.
But even though everyone was smiling, it had to come to an end when Reggie unleashed Firestorm upon Tina, the insults turning her mouth into the bad smile. Just when you think it couldn’t get worse, Tina’s father had bad news, her sister went into a coma with JLA Classified.
Despair was ready to take hold, but Tommy proclaimed that hope was not lost with Superman: Back in Action. And Tina’s dog Rufus finally got his cast removed after his dramatic and poignant encounter with Mr. Big