Friday, April 26, 2013

The Slow, Painful Demise of "The Office"

"The Office" used to be one of those minor miracles.  So rarely had it worked out - a U.S. version of a classic British show that developed its own voice and quickly became one of the funniest and most consistent shows on TV.  In Steve Carrell, the show found a true star and with great supporting dynamics like the Jim/Dwight adversarial relationship, the show had a lot of wells to go to without having to mimic the Ricky Gervais classic (something they learned quickly after doing an exact replica of a script in the pilot).  With a deep bench of supporting characters, the show was able to do a lot without going too far.

What really made the show though was the romance at the heart of the show.  Jim and Pam were the couple that everyone rooted for and even after they found love, got engaged and even got married - they still remained fun and lovable.

HOWEVER....the time came and Steve Carrell had become a viable movie star and was ready to move on.  At this point the show was entering its 7th Season, a completely understandable point for a great show to call it quits and go out on top.  BUT, NBC and the producers both decided to put money ahead of the legacy of the show.  The pure balls that the creative team had in believing they could replace Carrell is absolutely ludicrous.  Even worse was the misguided notion that Ed Helms was a rising star because he was in "The Hangover" (as probably the 4th best thing behind Galifanakis, Bradley Cooper and Mike Tyson.  I'm not sure Ken Jeong and the tiger shouldn't be higher.)  Helms was a useful player from his entrance at the Stamford branch and his interactions with Jim, ie Big Tuna.  However, as he became a bigger focal point, his character became more of a giant hemmorhoid on the show.  More on him later.

The point being that the show has been an unmitigated disaster since Carrell left, one that even Will Ferrell couldn't help.  The few funny moments have tended to be Jim/Dwight pranks and even those have been few and far between.  And the producer's answer to losing Carrell was to give more screen time to characters and plot lines that no one liked - anytime James Spader was on the screen, the baffling affair that Oscar had with the closeted senator that Angela was married to, etc.

The worst thing about the two years after Steve Carrell left is that it has now tainted my enjoyment of the previous 7 seasons.  There were always bad episodes and scenes that left you with a bad taste in your mouth - some examples of this were the Michael affair storyline with Donna in season 7, some of the uncomfortable petulant Michael scenes early on and pretty much everything to do with bringing Gabe into the office.  It once again just proves how great Carrell was to make that material work.

There were some truly great episodes and storylines the first few years in what was a truly great show but the problem is they are few and far between now.  In a following post, I'll recount my favorite episodes as we get closer to the series finale.  I guess I really blame NBC and the creators for giving our favorite characters closure and then stringing them along for money.  All I know is now I will have to look at the description before automatically watching an "Office" in reruns.

Next post will be about how the phrase "Jumping the Shark" has absolutely jumped the shark and how I've come up with a meaner and even more fun theory to play with for TV shows: TV Character Time Travel Assassin.  And my first test of this theory - Ed Helms' Andy Bernard on "The Office".

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Oh....and another reason I hate Billy Bush...

He was at one of the Blackhawks Stanley Cup games in Chicago. What kind of a sick world do we live in where that douchebag was watching the Hawks in the Stanley Cup when true blue die hard Hawks fans couldn't get to the game. What possible tie to Chicago does he have?

You hear me Billy? I wanted to take you down before - now you have awakened the fury!!


While it's only been a few years for Chicago fans to enjoy a championship run since the 2005 Sox, there was something truly special about watching the Blackhawks run this year. I've watched some really crappy Hawks teams over the past few years - wondering if Tuomo Ruutuu could be the next big thing, would Adrian Acoin prove to be worth the big money, why oh why did we trade Roenick for Alex Zhamnov???

You knew some magic was in the air this year. The Hawks got their Bulls/Pistons type test losing to the Red Wings in the conference finals last year. Bringing in Hossa, Madden, Kopecky and the ridiculously fortuitous move of bringing Niemi up with the team to back up Cristobal "That's my seat on the bench" Huet. The year started off a little slow in Finland and with the Captain suffering a concussion early (not to mention Hossa being out to start the year). Then things took off and the Hawks battled for best record in a deep West all year.

I think the thing I enjoyed most as the playoffs got going is how much more special it got as Josh got more and more involved watching it with me. To see him rattle off the player names and jersey numbers beyond even seasoned hockey watchers was something else. Maybe even more so was to watch him play his own hockey games, scoring multiple goals with his favorites (Kane with a series of hat tricks along with Brent Sopel somehow scoring 3-4 goals a game??) and celebrating each goal with his own rendition of Chelsea Dagger.

It reminded me of my junior high/high school/early college years when you knew what you were doing almost every night in early summer - watching the Bulls playoff games. I loved scheduling my days around watching the Hawks games at night. I have to say, the stress and tension of playoff hockey took its toll as I know there are gray hairs now that weren't a few weeks ago. Even more fun was taking Josh up to bed with the girls after the 2nd periods and then turning off the lights and sneaking him back down to watch the ends of the games with me.

It's still hard to believe we won the Cup - really wish the winning goal had been a little more definitive early on - but how can you fault an ending where Patrick Kane wins it in overtime? Trying to soak this in still - want to welcome Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews especially into the Chicago sports hierarchy - can't wait for the day 20 years from now and going back to the UC for Kane/Toews legends night. Truly special - go Hawks!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tales from the Train

So I always thought I had my crazy train person story topped forever by Crazy Chinese Lady and while she's certainly in her own category - I have found a new challenger.

I'm sitting on the train minding my own business when a small Indian man, probably in his 50s, walked by with his big royal blue backpack nearly taking a swipe at my face. I thought nothing of it and went back to what I do best on the train - immersing myself in watching a dvd or reading a book and giving off serious vibes that I have no interest in conversation with anyone on the train.

As we started approaching Union Station, the same man walked back past me towards the front of the train. As he walked, he took careful measure to stare directly back at me. And as he continued walking he looked back again. And again. And as he slowly descended the stairwell, I saw his head pop up and look back AGAIN. Now at this point I'm looking around to make sure there's not some hottie sitting nearby that he was actually looking at. And there wasn't. So, clearly, I was the hottie.

He was in the stairwell down to the main level, so I again didn't really think anything of it. However as I started walking towards the front myself (having switched over to my IPOD to maintain my icy separation from the rest of the passengers and remain mobile), I see him glance back up the stairwell to me. Now I am a little spooked. And I start counting. 3 times as the train pulls into the station.

As we get off, I make sure to blow by him and his friend so as to not have to deal with this any longer. Since this day, I've seen him many times and continue to be pretty weirded out. Not really sure if I just look like someone he knows or if he is currently envisioning some romantic scenario where years from now we look back and laugh at how long the courtship played out.

If you're reading this out there Strange Staring Indian Man (and seeing as how many times you seem to glance over on a normal train ride, you have most definitely found this site and bookmarked it already. Ha, joke's on you, no pictures on this site and a wildly inconsistent blogging schedule) - I would like to simply express that the best we can ever be is good friends. I hope you can live with that and still lug your royal blue backpack into work each day.

In the meantime, I am currently examining alternative train schedules.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The State of TV

Didn't really have anything else to blog about right now - you can only make fun of "fans" cheering louder for the Dunkin' Donuts scoreboard race than during the actual game, so many times. At least hockey playoffs and baseball is around the corner. But I thought now is a good time to check in on the current state of TV. Show recommendations, thoughts, etc.

1) LOST - still love it. In fact, I'm dilligently cranking through the dvds of all the seasons (almost done with season 3 right now) to see if I'm all up to speed on every reference, etc. I'm a little nervous as to how scattered the cast is and how far away we are in some ways from what makes the show so great - the chemistry between the greatest ensemble cast I've ever seen. But I remain hopeful that these last few episodes will live up to the promise and blow us away.

2) 24 - glad it's ending. A great show that sadly is limping to the finish much like Michael Jordan playing on the Wizards. And at least MJ didn't rely on the whole "Mole in CTU" routine every year. I'm seriously considering writing an online viral skit about CTU's HR people. I mean, who keeps hiring these people?

3) Comedies - some great developments this year. Modern Family is an instant classic - it reminds me so much of Arrested Development, which is high praise. Parks and Recreation has been a revelation this year. A middling show at best last year, it is at the very least, as funny as The Office, if not maybe a little more consistent. Office is still very good, better now that Jim is no longer a manager. 30 Rock had fallen off a bit but turning it around. Community has its moments but really inconsistent.

4) Reality - Amazing Race is always great, no shocker there. Survivor has had a stellar year both with the fall season and the mesmerizing Russell. This current All-Star edition is the first time in years that I am legitimately excited week to week to watch. Really good stuff. When is the regular Top Chef on again?

5) Some new things I'm watching - Have watched the first 3 episodes of Justified on TNT with Timothy Olyphant. Kind of a modern day western with a US Marshall demoted and forced to return home to rural Kentucky after a shootout in Miami. Really enjoying it so far, Olyphant is really good and the show has a tough but quirky feel to it.

Most importantly - for the love of GOD - please watch CHUCK. Easily my most anticipated show each week. Some ups and downs this year, but I absolutely love the show and the characters and feel like we need more. Last few episodes have really rounded into form, last few should be great. We can't save the show with Subway again - please give it a try and watch it.

And if NBC cancels Chuck, I will burn them down to the ground. I'm just saying.

Saturday, March 13, 2010 close

Man we should have had that game against Ohio State today. Twice we couldn't get a good last shot off that could have potentially won the game. We played our hearts out - some questionable calls didn't help - an intentional foul, seriously?

The killer is that it looked like we were in then regardless and then teams like Houston win Conference USA (isn't that where College of DuPage plays now? Good thing that conference will get 2 bids) and Minnesota gets to destroy a Purdue team that isn't remotely scary any more without Hummel. Now the big question is how teams like Virginia Tech and Mississippi State leapfrogged the Illini with even more questionable resumes and less big wins.

So frustrating - the Illini have shown flashes the past couple days of being really dangerous, too bad we may have to settle for taking out our frustrations on the NIT field.

Teams had better watch their backs next year - with this team all coming back and the recruiting class we have - I'm looking at a top 3 seed next year.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Post Oscars

So....guess I need to watch "The Hurt Locker." In my defense, it has been in my friggin' Netflix queue for like 3 months and I can't seem to ever get it.

Pretty good overall show - few observations:

1) The hosts are never utilized enough. Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin are hilarious - needed more of them with some of the little bits they did.

2) Good thing we had 10 Best Picture nominees. I mean it really drove interest in the other 8 movies that weren't going to win besides "Hurt Locker" or "Avatar" - I mean seriously...

3) Why do the Oscars keep screwing up the "In Memoriam" part? That is one of the best parts of the night so we can honor and remember the greats who passed away. And yet, for some insane reason, they never show the damn screen the whole time- zooming in and out, etc. Who cares if James Taylor is performing? They barely got Patrick Swayze on the screen in time b/c they were so busy showing James Taylor. Is he really doing that gig for the glitz and glamour?

4) Taylor the Oscars....words escape me

5) Thrilled with wins for "UP." Pixar is awesome - waiting for their first Best Picture.

6) I haven't seen "Hurt Locker" so I can't say much, but I am STUNNED that James Cameron didn't win at least Best Director for what he has done for movies with the advancements he has made with Avatar.

7) Enjoyed the John Hughes tribute - he really truly dominated the movies that were made as my generation grew up.

8) Just for fun - wouldn't this scenario have been great if the presenter said, "And the Oscar for Best Visual Effects goes to......District 9. (Pause, stunned silence) No, seriously, it is Avatar - I just wanted to see your faces when I said that."
Why even have the category this year? What would it take for Avatar to actually lose this category? Maybe that should go to Shakespeare in Love too.

9) Ultimately, I think the highlight of the night for me was the "Modern Family" promo where the families played movies charades. I was crying I was laughing so hard.

Overall solid night though. I miss Jack Nicholson in the front row though - where's he at? Go back to 5 Best Picture movies next year. Alright, time to go update the Netflix queue.