Thursday, October 11, 2012

South Park Season 16, Episode 10

Well hello there Mr. UPS man

Posted By on Thu, Oct 11, 2012 at 12:39 AM

After two back-to-back strong episodes of "South Park," social commentary was high, but laughs were low this week, even to the point where pulling in Bane from Batman couldn't save the show.

Poor Ike got the whole ball rolling. As if walking in on your parents having sex wasn't bad enough, he walked in on his parents role playing, with his dad dressed up as the UPS man, you know, delivering a package.

Kyle just can't believe what Ike drew out for him.
  • Kyle just can't believe what Ike drew out for him.

One misunderstanding, and as usual, the whole town of South Park was in an uproar. The men in town all become scared that their wives are also getting treated to special packages from the UPS man, and set out to find a way to stop him from having his way with all of their wives.

The social commentary that strung the whole thing together was provided by the old-timer farmer character (who we've seen at some points before, or at least they've used the same idea), telling everyone about how the same thing used to happen when people started getting milk delivered instead of buying it themselves. The price of shipping and the convenience of delivery, it turns out, is having the milk man, or the UPS man, have his way with your wife.

Just like last week, the show suffered from too many ideas at once. But this week it wasn't nearly as funny and the execution suffered. Ike's drawing of his mom and the UPS man having sex was kind of somewhat slightly funny the first time, but as it kept popping up over and over again it lost anything it had going for it. Cartman's whole side plot with the security system people had a few moments, but never really amounted to anything but a few tame one-liners.

And then of course there was the inclusion of the Bane masks, which all the men in town used when they kidnapped and beat up the UPS man, and there are just so many places that the show could have taken the joke, only to leave it as a one-note (OK, two if you count the ending) gag that could have been so much more. Props to the voice recreation though, as that was dead on.

Then, midstream the show jumped focus to the security company, and the In-Security alarm systems that could actually be installed in people and go off when people got worried or stressed. Again, it was a good idea, but a lackluster "taking it to the extreme" tangent for this show, especially considering where I thought they were heading for (putting an alarm on the certain specific entrance that the UPS man may have been using on their wives, for instance).

Instead we got several jokes about the In-Security device going off at the wrong time, and then the UPS man's own security device going off when Kyle tried to get him and his mom and dad to confront the truth. Of course, there was nothing really to confront, Kyle's dad cleared up how, you know, sometimes you just need to role play to bring that spark back into your love life, and life moved on. No digs at Amazon, no digs at the UPS, and the practical gold mine that is the USPS was left untouched, untapped, and sadly, the show seemed to pass up a lot of marks it should have been hitting.

I loved the idea of the premise, and the social commentary is dead on: we are a lazy generation, and there are costs associated with expecting everything delivered directly to us. And while the premise tied everything together on some levels, the execution just wasn't that funny and the show got bogged down in everything it was trying to do. The Bane gag was funny (especially with Cartman at the end) but was largely underdeveloped and seemed quite random, and the show, unlike the UPS man, failed to deliver.

Willie Clark does agree with the episode though, as he is not a stranger to packages showing up that he forgot he ordered. He also wishes that he grew up when people still delivered milk. If you want to deliver his milk, send a resume to him on Twitter or Facebook.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"How I Met Your Mother" Season 8, Episode 3

I said a bang bang, bangity bang, bang bang bangity bang

Posted By on Tue, Oct 9, 2012 at 2:31 PM

I've mentioned I love the Bang song right?

“How I Met Your Mother” started off, well, appropriately, with a bang. Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) is fresh out of his relationship with Quinn (Becki Newton), right? And we all know how well he deals with new-found singledom.

Thus we were greeted with a killer opening: Barney storming the bar. With a t-shirt cannon. And a newly jazzed up version of the infamous Bang song. And then he created Bangtoberfest. And Bangtoberfest t-shirts. It was a hilarious and near pitch-perfect opening bit, with Barney soon finding that his old ways of picking up women just weren't enough. Even Bangtoberfest didn't mean what it use to mean anymore (even though he just invented it, as Ted (Josh Radnor) pointed out), and Barney decided he needed a fresh angle.

And it was Barney’s antics that kept the show going strong. His new plan involved the seduction of nannies (which I’m surprised the show hasn't done before), and of course, it was just in time for Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) to start their own interviews for a nanny for baby Marvin.

The show still isn't sure what to do with Marvin: It got a few solid jokes from the couple this week, including Lily running out the poop-clock so she didn't have to change Marvin, and their nanny subplot was the best that the pair has seen this season (with guest Mrs. Buckminster (Jane Carr) and Marshall’s toy race track bits being especially noteworthy). It was an interesting twist to the same old baby stuff we usually see, at the start at least, and was a good foil to Barney’s own nanny interviews.

We can all agree we saw this coming, right?
  • We can all agree we saw this coming, right?

On the Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Ted front, both were competing in a relationship face off, each of them trying to one-up the other over just whose relationship was going better. It was a pretty flat B story line, aside from letting us know that both relations were doomed (which we knew), and would fall apart within the month (which we also pretty much knew). It at least started to sow the seed of discontent within both Robin and Ted for their current relationships. Less really was more for the pair this week.

About half way through the show lost nearly all momentum, which is a shame given just how great the opening was, and fell into predictable and not-that-funny or important territory. Lily and Marshall, in-case-you-didn't-catch-the-foreshadowing-the-whole-time decided on Lily's dad as the nanny, which I guess was supposed to be heartwarming but didn't really phase me, Barney got beat up by all the nannies (his long overdue getting what was coming to him?), and Ted and Robin saw Barney being single and decided that their relationships weren't really that bad after all (But we know they will be over soon regardless!).

It was such a strong front half of the episode (the strongest of the season) that it was a shame to see it stumble in the later minutes of the show, especially when, oddly enough, the ending bit that went on during the credits with Barney banging Mrs. Buckminster had so much potential (a wing nanny, for crying out loud) that I was surprised it was pushed to the end, where it could have stood on its own as a much stronger back half of the episode. Ah well.

With the relationship steam running out for Ted and Robin as well, I'm curious how (and if) the show can handle two more breakups before the month is out. Barney and Quinn's wasn't that well done, and both Ted and Robin already seem to be finding major faults with their prospective others. We know how everything ends though, just not how the characters get there, and I'm not sure how well the show can back itself out of the we-all-know-what-is-coming corner it has painted itself into. But if this week is any indication, it still has plenty of hard hitting laughs left in it.

Willie Clark was a noob to the world of HIMYM until last December when he magically found the strength to marathon all six and a half seasons in a few short weeks. Now, he dreams at night about finally seeing what the mother looks like (Yeah, that happened, for real, last night.) Want to share in his dreams? Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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Friday, October 5, 2012

"The X Factor" Season 2: Boot Camp, Part 2

In which we get sing-offs, and EVERYONE FORGETS THE WORDS

Posted By on Fri, Oct 5, 2012 at 4:00 AM

We went into Day 2 of Boot Camp in Miami with 60 acts remaining. They were paired off and had to duet against one another. The singing pairs had to pick the same song, and decide who sang what parts. Both singers could advance. Only one could advance. Neither of them could advance. Ultimately we didn't get any results from this episode. Mostly we got a lot of people forgetting their lyrics and breaking down. I mean a LOT of people.

First up: hyper irritating vocal coach Tara Simon and shy-girl-turned-blues-hoochieJenell Garcia. Tara and Jenell picked "Landslide" - or rather, Tara picked it. Jenell seemed more or less pushed into that song. I will say, I thought it was a smart song for both of them, because it's very different from what we've seen from either contestant thus far. It's much quieter and more restrained, and had the potential to show off a totally different side. Jenell struggled a bit with the low notes, but she was connected to the song. Tara still oversang like a motherfucker, but when she actually pulled back a bit there were some nice emotional moments. Simon thought it was a terrible song choice for them, and said that neither one of them represented themselves well. He picked up on the fact that Tara chose the song, which left Jenell with her "wings clipped." I guess the judges don't want singers with range. They want to keep them in their easily checked boxes. Good to know.

Beatrice Miller and Carly Rose Sonenclar, 13, did "Pumped Up Kicks," which was a more mature song than I think they should have gone with. I mean, there's lyrics about cigarettes. Come on. But they did well with it, especially Carly, who is a phenomenon. Carly is the exception to my concerns about the 13-year-olds being in this competition. She's incredible.

Older rock guys Vino Alan and David Correy went with Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On." Before they started David made this stupid speech to the judges about how he looks at them as the four roadblocks to his dreams. I'm sure he was going for earnest and determined, but he's coming off pathetic and desperate. He needs to quit it with the begging and just sing. Because he IS good. But I thought Vino worked better with that song - his deep, soulful voice just really hit the pocket. Interestingly, Vino thought he blew it, and reacted very negatively to it. Britney Spears said that Vino kind of scares her. I can see that.

Diamond White, 13, was up against Dinah Jane Hansen, 16, for a very slowed down version of Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger." (An aside: so many of the songs we saw last night were dreary, sappy versions of upbeat pop songs. Is this show trying to bore us?) Dinah again started much too low, and took too long to get warmed up - she also blew the lyrics in the beginning. But once she opened up she was lovely. Diamond, conversely, attacked the song from the beginning. I like Dinah's voice better, but Diamond has more star quality. But she is still a little girl aping older artists' moves, and that's going to get very boring very quickly. She's like watching a doll come to life.

There were some quick clips of a couple of sing-offs that the judges responded positively to, but honestly, I thought they were pretty terrible. I sometimes wonder how different things must sound live than over the TV.

There was a country showdown between Willie Jones and Tate Stevens to the 90's r'n'b jam "Nobody Knows." Willie TOTALLY blew it. He completely forgot the lyrics, and beyond that, he didn't use his lower register, which is really what's special about him. Tate didn't sound great on this, either. It was too slow and unengaging. Willie admitted that he didn't know the song, and the judges thought that Tate hoodwinked him. I don't think that's fair. We saw no evidence of Willie getting railroaded. What we saw was a guy not being able to remember lyrics and not sing particularly strongly regardless. If Willie advances it's a slap in the face of everybody else who participated thus far. This is his second full-on failure at Boot Camp. How many more chances do you give this kid?

Arin Ray, 16, and Normani Hamilton, 16, were given a fake showmance angle, which always grosses me out. The two of them picked One Direction's "You Don't Know You're Beautiful." I thought Normani was...fine. Not great, not bad, too stop-and-start for my liking. Arin started out rough, and looked like he was in pain when he sang. The high notes of the song were at the very, very top of his range, but he got through it. I don't think he's nearly as special as the judges seem to. I also continue to be put off by the fact that he made the finals last year as part of a group, even though he original started out as a solo artist. He's operating at an unfair advantage here.

Jillian Jensen, 19, and Latasha Robinson, 27, did "Why Don't You Stay," and Latasha cracked under the pressure and totally forgot the lyrics. Jillian, to her credit, tried to give her the words, and then took over the song very nicely. I really like Jillian's voice, which has a mature quality to it. But she has to figure out how to not contort her face into this near tragedy mask whenever she sings. It's very offputting.

Freddie Combs, the obese minister, and Jessie Bryant, who I don't remember seeing, BOTH forgot their lyrics in their duet. Cringe-worthy. And then we got a montage of act after act blowing their words. When one girl broke down backstage, Britney got visibly upset. She really is a delicate soul.

The big show was Cece Fray and Paige Thomas, who have been positioned as arch rivals for episodes now. Honestly, I don't feel like there's any real competition there - Cece's a way better singer, but Paige has a much better style. I had initially also given Paige the nod for personality, but I'm already growing weary of all her crying and pleading that this is what she was born to do. They did "Secrets" by One Republic. Paige suggested that Cece bullied her into the song, Cece tried to make it sound like Paige's idea. The song was too low for Paige and she mumbled through the first verse, forgetting some of her words. She was off pitch, and she did the already-tired crouch move. She told the judges that she wants to win this because she's tired of watching other artists doing what she knows she can do. Really, Paige? Then maybe you ought to start showing us, because three auditions in I am seriously unimpressed with you vocally. Cece did a much better job with the song, but it still was not a great song choice for either one of them. And Paige really better step it up. The show keeps shoving her down my throat, but thus far she's a much better stylist than she is a singer/performer.

Next week: we discover the 24 acts going through to Judges Houses. Does that mean some of these children get to go live with Britney Spears?! Cheetos for everyone!

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"Project Runway" Season 10: Lower your avant-garde

You guys, arm bands do not equal high fashion

Posted By on Fri, Oct 5, 2012 at 4:00 AM

It was the final challenge before Fashion Week, and the Final 5 - Dmitry, Sonjia, Christopher, Melissa, and Fabio - were hauled out to a castle in Long Island, given some nonsensical make-up-based inspirations (seriously, I have no idea), and then tasked with designing avant-garde looks. I think it blows that we got our avant-garde challenge right at the end, when historically all of the contestants are suffering from killer fatigue. And I think that might have been at play here, since basically none of the outfits were remotely avant-garde. A couple of them were just plain ugly.

Before we get to that, poor Sonjia was getting the screwjob left and right. Not only did she return to Parsons to discover that the dazzling gold fabric she had purchased at Mood was mysteriously gone, but Tim Gunn basically gave her the business, saying she wasn't working up to her potential. (Tim, she's won three challenges, including the last one.) The fabric thing is especially troubling, because it is the second time this season that's happened to a designer: in a team challenge early on Elena also discovered that the fabric she bought to make a coat was nowhere to be found. I've seen people online accusing the producers of deliberately stealing fabrics to create drama. I hope that's not the case. I just don't understand how these designers don't go through their bags before leaving Mood, to make sure they have everything. They paid for this stuff, right? If someone at Mood forgot to pack it, shouldn't someone from the store bring it to Parsons? How is it fair that someone else's mistake means these designers are creatively hobbled to such a degree? None of it makes sense.

Anyway, as mentioned previously, I was not a big fan of almost any of these looks. Some of them were pretty but failed to meet the avant-garde nature of the challenge, some of them were out there but aesthetically unappealing. I'm sympathetic, because as Tim himself said, the designers were being asked to do months' worth of work in the real world in basically two days. You cannot expect them to knock out truly couture-looking creations in that time span. (Although I would point out that, in seasons past, we DID get some very impressive pieces in similar challenges - I'm thinking seasons 3 and 4, to be precise.)

Of the five works that came down the runway (you can see photos here), I guess I would have given the win to Fabio's. His upside-down jacket was interesting, and I liked his play on armored/exposed with the sheer skirt (although I hated that braided top). The judges went with Dmitry, who sent down an absolutely gorgeous, brilliantly tailored suit that had some interesting details on the shoulders, sleeves, and neckline. But come on, nothing about that look was avant-garde. It looked very much like almost everything else Dmitry has created for this competition. But given that I think he's sent down something slick and stunning each week, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Just not in the spirit of the challenge.

I thought Christopher's was a total turkey - including those terrible arm feather things - and I'm surprised nobody mentioned that it was almost certainly a rip-off of CharlizeTheron's evil-queen character from "Snow White and the Huntsman" (which would have been all over the place around the time they were filming this season). On a related note, the designers have apparently decided that "avant-garde" means "arm bands," because Melissa too created ugly, unnecessary gauntlets for her girl. I liked the color mixing in her outfit (and remember, Melissa is NOT big on colors), but it read like three interesting separate pieces, not one cohesive look.

Alas, poor Sonjia got the boot. I guess I could see it - the dress was not great, particularly from the back, which looked very cheap with all the illusion netting. It's a shame, because in the beginning of the season I assumed it would be Sonjia vs. Ven in the finale. But the judges were right when they mentioned Sonjia's consistency issues. She has had moments of brilliance and a few real clunkers. I think part of the problem is she's not very good at planning; she just kind of wings it. There's real talent there, and her personal sense of style is F-A-B-O, she just needs to refine.

On that note, be sure to go online and find images of Sonjia's decoy collection for Fashion Week. I hate to say it, but it's just dreadful -- a mélange of disparate ideas all thrown together. I don't know if she was depressed about getting eliminated right before the big show or what, but it's a real dud. The sad news is that one of the four designers still in the running also totally blows this opportunity. I guess we'll have to see if that person makes it to the end, since it looks like next week we'll get yet another elimination. Ay...

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

"South Park" Season 16, Episode 9

This is exactly what Adele is talking about

Posted By on Thu, Oct 4, 2012 at 10:33 AM

We all know that Cartman is fat. We've all known it, and it has been one of the longest running jokes in "South Park" history. But Cartman’s never admitted it. Until now.

sp_1609_promo03.jpg

After all these years, Cartman finally came to terms with the fact that he is fat on this week’s episode, but in typical Cartman fashion, that didn't mean exercising or doing something about it. No, it meant gaining weight so insurance would cover a Rascal scooter. Yep, Cartman now had his own set of wheels on which he could ride around. (His first stop: Kyle’s to try to take a shit, and then threatening Kyle with a lawsuit if he didn't widen his bathroom entrance and make it accessible.)

The show kind of speed-ran through the rest of Cartman’s fat-Rascal-riding antics, which they probably could have built a whole episode around if they wanted, with him taking a trip to Disney World, before ultimately suing Best Buy because its bathroom entrance wasn’t accessible, either. It all led to a great montage by Cartman (while riding around the entire class on his Rascal) talking about how he may be fat, but he certainly wasn’t Honey Boo Boo.

Honey Boo Boo, incidentally, felt like the oddball out in the episode; the piece that didn’t really fit in or get off the ground. It’s probably because I’ve never watched that show, nor do I ever plan to, but the writers here didn’t treat her too kindly: her heart gave out and she had to get a transplant from a pig, which made her even more of a piggly little animal then she already was.

Multiple plots ran though this episode. Kyle was trying to stop Cartman from taking advantage of the system and find a way to educate everyone about how easily the weight-handicap system can be abused. He teamed up with Token to make a documentary, but Token edited it into a new reality TV show, "Fatty Doo Doo," which actually lost to "Honey Boo-Boo" in the ratings and led to a showdown between Cartman and the hog-hearted Honey Boo Boo herself (I’m curious if "Honey Boo Boo" beat "South Park" in the ratings last week, and that spawned this whole thing).

The best parts were centered around James Cameron, who was off diving deep into the sea, trying to find and “raise the bar,” which had several of the largest laughs of the week (“I have now sunk deeper than any human ever has before!”) but had limited screen time against everything else that was going on. His plot and the whole raising the bar/lowering the bar metaphor could have played out a lot more, but it just got lost.

It’s been a long time since the show has aimed at this many targets at once (Randy Newman got burnt several times as well), with it usually sticking to two plots per episode. But the writers managed to pull it all off. The jokes were well executed and ranged from dead-on funny (Rascal tipping!) to quietly amusing if you noticed them (like Cartman using a grabber to grab a Kleenex during the trial), and even included a brief moment of clarity for the show at the end (Kyle tells Stan that maybe it was *them* who lowered the bar).

Willie Clark is trying not to feel shame, but really hopes that Candy Corn Oreos are real and kind of wants to try them. If you know if they are or not, please let him know on Facebook or Twitter.

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"The X Factor" Season 2: Boot Camp, Round 1

In which we watch a bunch of young teenagers crash, burn, and cry

Posted By on Thu, Oct 4, 2012 at 4:00 AM

We're done with the initial auditions, and on to Boot Camp! Having not watched Season 1, I had no idea what that entailed, but I assumed it was similar to Hollywood Week on "Idol." That's basically true.

After fakey-fake "candid" videos featuring several contestants, most of whom were spotlighted in the original audition episodes, we ended up in Miami, Florida. From the 120 acts brought back from original auditions, 24 would be left standing in the course of a week. That is a much more aggressive culling process than I'm used to on these shows.

Since the show still does not have hosts (Mario Lopez and KhloeKardashian will presumably start with the live shows), the judges led us through the process in talking heads. (BTW: Am I crazy, or did Simon look like he's been to the "dentist" in his THs? His lips are not moving naturally anymore.) The contestants were put through a "series of challenges," the first of which was singing a song of their choice in front of the other contestants, so that they could all size up the competition.

First up was Diamond White, a bubbly 13-year-old who picked "I Have Nothing" by Whitney Houston. Diamond needs to tone down the parroted moves and stop oversinging. She also had some pitch issues. But for a kid who is barely a teen she did a surprisingly mature performance that got better as it went along.

Austin Corini, 16, still has that awful bleach-blonde hair from his initial auditions and still seems fixated on dull mid-tempo songs - this time he went with "To Make You Feel My Love." He's got all the ingredients to be a successful teen-pop star, but I don't think he has the connection with an audience to make those kinds of songs work for him. The judges seemed slightly divided - they liked him, but not the song.

Quick flashes of other contestants: David Correy, 26, came out and ratcheted up the energy with his version of Duffy's "Mercy," which is not a great vocal song, but he added a nice run. Dinah Jane Hansen, 15, did a phenomenal job on Mariah Carey's "Hero." Lyric Da Queen, 23, rapped while simultaneously dancing on the grave of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez. Jason Brock, 35, who I just automatically think of as Fat Lambert, killed it. Carly Rose Sonenclar, 13, did a very solid version of Bruno Mars's "Runaway Baby," although Simon seemed to think she's too mature for her age. I was just glad to find out that she's not a one-trick pony, and I hope she can keep it up. She's one of my favorite at this point.

Jessica Espinosa must have been from an audition episode I missed, or they never showed her, but the judges seemed to remember her. I have absolutely no idea what song she was singing, but I hated it. I thought she really struggled through her number, but she has an interesting voice. The rasp didn't sound comfortable, if that makes sense. Her voice sounded constricted.

Janell Garcia was the girl who gave us some Benatar realness the first time out. This time she was similarly meek and nervous before going on stage, but she again came out and transformed into a bluesy sexy bomb as soon as she got the mic. You can tell that this is almost a persona for her - she just lets go completely when she sings. It's like a singing version of The Hulk or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I love this girl, and she really knows how to perform.

Vino Allen, 40, is like a grizzled, tattoo-covered version of Channing Tatum, and I would totally hit it. He's got a great voice for recording, and I'm very interested to see more of him. (On a side note, Vino and almost every single other contestant spotlighted last night is desperately in need of a makeover. DESPERATELY. I think he was wearing manpris.)

Johnny Maxwell, 16, seemed to be rapping to "I'll Be Missing You" by Puff Daddy, but Britney caught early on that he forgot his lyrics. And it got worse and worse as it went along.

Jordyn Foley, 12, the kid who sang "The Sun Will Come Out" from "Annie" last week and had absolutely NO business moving on, caterwauled a song I didn't even recognize. Some poor guy named Manny Acosta butchered "I Give My All." That obnoxious Trevor Moran, 13, did his typical foolery to Nicki Minaj's "Starships" -- a car-sing-along-caliber vocal with manic dancing -- and L.A. Reid actually had the audacity to say, "It just wasn't there today." The kid did exactly what he did in his first audition and you put him through. He's a joke, and you put him on national TV acting like he has real talent. You're the one who looks like an idiot here.

Nick Perrelli, 16, the crooner kid, completely crumbled under the pressure on "Feeling Good." Jake Garza, a 12-year-old, similarly fell apart (IRONY ALERT!) while singing "Total Eclipse of the Heart." He had a total breakdown of the everything backstage, and I'd like to point out that many of the biggest implosions were very young teenagers, whose pain was just exploited on national TV. That kid is going to go to middle school and be teased mercilessly for breaking down into heaving sobs, asking for his mom. That's not fair to anyone. Britney Spears was alarmed -- and I think legitimately sympathized -- with the very real emotional damage being done here. Given her background that makes sense.

The groups -- traditionally the damned on this show -- included generically good/cute boy bands L3vel, Citizen, Jetset, and then Emblem 3, which thus far has talked mad smack about pretty much everyone, continually alluding to their "artistry" and "musicianship." They choked on their version of "Iris" by the Goo Goo Dolls, and frankly, I loved watching it. When you act like this huge rock star and you get outclassed, you deserve it. The group did get the song back on track when another singer took over, but that was a very rough round for them. The judges still seemed to like it. I find them cocky and offputting, even if they did do an interesting arrangement of an unexpected song.

Tara Simon, the fantastically irritating vocal coach, came out and totally oversung "Somebody To Love." Can she sing? Yes. But she's so ridiculous that I hate her. Except I then come around to finding her hilarious to mock. So I guess I want her to move on? Tara Simon, you are destroying my worldview!

Willie Jones, 17, is serving up Kid 'n' Play realness, but he sings country. That was unexpected! He did "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy," and it started out OK, but then got really hokey really fast. He's got a great lower range but his upper range needs work.

Paige Thomas, the Rihannabe, did "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney. Her voice has too much vibrato, but when she really puts some gas into it, she's decent. I still think her look and style is what's really going to carry her in this competition, because the vocal was not as strong as it should be. I had the exact same take on her first audition, which the judges loved.

Cece Frey, 21, is the girl with the ill-considered leopard-print tattoo on her forehead, also did "Always Love You." I thought Cece's version was stronger, although she has to tone down the cabaret mannerisms and finish out her lines better.

The judges deliberated over their cuts. I found that Britney was quite opinionated, and voiced her concerns well. She was also clearly invested in the proceedings, which was fun to see. Demi Lovato was a basically a nonentity this episode.

At the end of the episode, we got three groups. Two went through, one was axed. Among those cut were Trevor, Jordyn, Jessica, the San Francisco transsexual bride (boo), Jake, and a bunch of people we didn't know.

Tomorrow night: Boot Camp continues with sing-offs, and Britney has a break down because she hates seeing children cry. Leave Britney alone!

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"Face Off" Season 3: Kids draw the darndest things

Posted By on Wed, Oct 3, 2012 at 10:40 AM

Last night I realized that we're at least 2/3 of the way through this season, and at this point we can make a few judgment calls. Overall I think the challenges this season have been pretty great. We've had some good sci-fi staples (zombies, super heroes) and some more creative exercises (the Chinese zodiac, this week's assignment). Since the DQ of crazy Joe in Episode 1 all of the contestants have been, for the most part, likable. And I think on the whole the talent this time out was higher than the season before. But the one major problem with this season is that we've known who the finalists will be since pretty much the beginning. Barring some major catastrophe in the next few weeks, this is all coming down to Laura vs. Roy, who are leagues above anybody else still in the running.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. With only six artists left and an entire month's worth of shows to fill, the producers had to re-stack the deck a bit, so they did the old eliminated-designer-returns bit. This mini-challenge brought in almost all the axed S3 contestants -- C.C., Eric, Jason, Nicole, and Tommy (Joe was noticeably left out, probably because dude tried to SUE THE SHOW) -- and they were tasked with creating a Day of the Dead-inspired look that was judged by erstwhile panelist Patrick Tatopoulos. The clear stand-outs were Nicole's colorful, rich-looking mariachi dude and Eric's prosthetic skull construction. Surprisingly, Patrick gave the win to Nicole. Don't get me wrong, she deserved it. But I thought bringing the brother back (Eric and Derek are fraternal twins) would be too tempting for the producers. Good on the show for rewarding actual talent instead of backstories.

The main challenge saw the Final 6, plus the returning Nicole, paired up with child artists and asked to bring their monster drawings to life. Some of these kids are VERY creative, and the monsters were wild and wacky. Some of the designers took the decidedly non-human-looking drawings and tried to anthropormorphize them. Others embraced the unusual shapes and really went for the challenge.

At judging, Glenn Hetrick told the designers that the panel was more polarized than it has ever been, and that showed in the critiques. Ve Neill and Neville Page seemed to more or less agree on their favorites -- which tended to be the less humanoid-looking works -- while Glenn gravitated toward the more traditional, adult-looking monsters. Personally I thought Glenn was missing the point here. Yes, they were supposed to be making a movie make-up based off of a kid's monster. But it was the kid's monster. Turning it into something for an adult horror film seemed like a cop-out.

My favorite look was easily Laura's, which she described as a "half vampire, half dragon baby that throws rocks at people." Hilarious. She is SO talented - has she ever put out anything that wasn't amazing? - and she got a much-deserved win. Roy came in second for his really cool multi-eyed, multi-colored alien that had a face for a hand. These two absolutely brought their kid artist's drawings to 3D life. (Click here for close-up looks of all of last night's creations.)

Derek, Rod, and Alana ended up in the bottom, with Rod getting the axe for once again making another big-headed creation despite repeated warnings from the judges not to do so. I think Rod is something of a one-way monkey (TM "Project Runway"'s Dmitry) -- he's talented, but is stuck in a very limited range creatively. But I sympathized, because he was tasked with bringing someone else's vision to life, and that vision really did have a giant head. I wondered if there were producer shenanigans at play there, giving him a kid whose drawing would almost certainly screw him with the judges.

At this point Nicole is total cannon fodder (I like her, but you know it's true), Derek is wildly inconsistent, and Alana has been outclassed since basically the beginning of the competition -- and the judges are starting to notice. Ve's critique of Alana's paintjob this week was pretty brutal, and if Alana somehow makes it to the finale I'll be seriously upset. I had pegged Sarah as the third finalist early on, but she's been falling apart the past three or so weeks. I thought she made a return to form this week with her sweets-based monster, which looked very cool from my living-room couch. But I'm afraid she's lost momentum, and her clear lack of pop-culture references and time-management problems might screw her, leaving that third finale spot open to Derek (eh) or Alana (boo).

Next: Dr. Seuss challenge, with the Seussian-haired Brian Grazer as guest judge.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

"How I Met Your Mother" Season 8, Episode 2

The Autumn of Break-ups begins

Posted By on Mon, Oct 1, 2012 at 8:58 PM

"How I Met Your Mother" is in an interesting place now, for several reasons.

The show as a whole sits in limbo as corporate cats decide its future. It's still unknown if the current season will be its last, or if it will go on to season 9. That means the creative forces putting the show together don't know when they will need to wrap it up. That's a challenge, to say the least.

The other dilemma the show faces is that viewers already know that the three main relationships: Ted (Josh Radnor) and Victoria (Ashley Williams), Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Quinn (Becki Newton), and Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Nick (Michael Trucco), are all set to fall apart eventually. So, the self-dubbed Autumn of Breakups begins, this week telling the disaster of Barney and Quinn.

Who can say no to a good ol' pillow fight?
  • Who can say no to a good ol' pillow fight?

It all started with Barney's prenup, which was one of the funniest bits in a laundry list of humorous moments for the show, including such gems as mandatory good-morning pillow fights with Quinn and his other wives, a monetary fine if she gained any weight at the weekly weigh-ins, her parents only being allowed to stay in the house if they were in an urn, and the mandatory 50,000 honka-honka rule. (You know, honka-honka, the thing that no girl likes, well, except for Lily). It was all solid, classic Barney material, and fit very well with what we know and have come to expect from Mr. Stinson.

The prenup, as crazy as it was to everyone else, seemed to make perfect sense to Barney (who may only have, in his words, gone a fairy's eyelash or a unicorn whisper too far), but Ted, Marshall, and Nick all tried to convince him he was crazy.

But, after everyone got home, Barney and Quinn's prenup problems spilled over into each of the other relationships, setting up the crux of this week: Marshall, Ted, and Nick all realized there were things in each of their relationships they wanted to change as well.

The laughs just piled up as the show went on: Marshall playing football with Marvin (and then his Dad playing football with him) was a riot, leading into the best bit of the night: Nick and his hope that Robin would turn off the TV during sex, which led to the utterly hilarious Robin revelation that she gets turned on watching herself do the news during sex. So much so, in fact, that she winks during the broadcast, just so when she watches it later she can see herself winking at herself. Yeah.

Everyone then divided up on gender lines, with the ladies and Quinn storming Barney's office with a prenup of her own. As all the fights continued to escalate, the return of Marshall's old boss, Arthur (Bob Odenkirk), as Barney's lawyer, continued to bring in laughs, as Arthur not only still doesn't remember Marshall, but continued to hit on Lilly. He ended up being the voice of reason: love is trusting someone enough to say what's really bothering you, which led to saccharine resolutions of each of the couple's lingering problems.

That is, except Quinn and Barney. With neither of them being willing to compromise or negotiate at all, they both realized that they don't trust each other and called the wedding off. Pretty much just like that. Even though I don't want to see Quinn go, I thought this resolution was the weakest part of the episode. It kind of just happened like we all knew it would, without any pomp or circumstance.

On the one hand, I'm glad that the show didn't decide to stretch out all of these relationships that we know are doomed, but everything seems to be going really fast now: that was a total of three episodes from proposal to calling it off. A season or two back I would have gladly taken the speedy movement, but now that everyone is possibly up against the end of the series, there is only so much time. Perhaps the show is getting everything as much into place as it can in case this is the end.

I'm also still a little disappointed to see Quinn go. I like her and Barney together way more than I ever liked Barney and Robin, and the show is going to have to do some convincing to make me feel that's the right choice there.

The episode ended with a flash-forward to Barney talking about his and Robin's upcoming wedding, and how he wouldn't need a prenup this time. It was a sweet note to end a consistently funny episode, and any time the show balances humor, story advancement, and some good romantic notes here and there, it's a good one for me.

Moment of the night: Robin for the win. Her winking back at her TV self in pleasure after having just finished having sex. Priceless.

Willie Clark was a noob to the world of HIMYM until last December when he magically found the strength to marathon all six and a half seasons in a few short weeks. Now, he knows his slap bets from his ducky ties, and is in love with the bang song. If you want to sing along, follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"South Park" Season 15, Episode 10: All hail Lemmiwinks

I love Lemmiwinks

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2011 at 4:00 AM

This episode may go down as the one that restored my faith in “South Park.”

Last week, sure, it was funny, and it was nice to be able to laugh with the SP crew again after the extremely lackluster first half of the season last spring, but it wasn’t creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker at their best.

This week was.

The story centered on South Park Elementary’s brand new gossip site, Eavesdropper, mirroring both the online school harassment news and good old Wikileaks. Principal Victoria and Mr. Mackey are afraid that the site, and the student mocking of Pete Melman, who shit his pants in class and now is being tormented, might cause him to commit suicide. Oddly enough, they join forces with Cartman to try to help sway the public student opinion away from mocking Melman.

Meanwhile, Stan, who, after ending up on the site himself, decides that it must be stopped. The kids search the school to try to find out who is behind the site, only to find a gerbil typing away furiously at a computer updating the site with more juicy gossip.

It was at this point that I shouted, as I mistook the gerbil for Lemmiwinks, everybody’s favorite crawling-out-of-a-gay-man’s-ass gerbil. But, not to disappoint, the show soon introduced the new gerbil as Wikileaks, Lemmiwinks evil brother, and Lemmiwinks again found himself on a quest led by talking ghost animals.

Never go bass to mouth. Ever.
  • Never go bass to mouth. Ever.

The laugh out loud moments are too good to spoil, but between the Catatafish’s hilarious speech about bass to mouth ( a clever pun I can’t believe the show has never used before), Lemmiwinks’ own ‘reluctance’ to fight his brother, and how the school faculty decides to throw Cartman under the bus to try to save their own asses, this episode was South Park gold, returning to form and hilarious from start to finish(Minus one Selena Gomez beating that seemed a little forced, that is). Despite the whole Wikileaks tie in being a little less newsworthy, it still worked great, and I’m still laughing and chuckling at just how good this episode was.

To be fair, bringing in Lemmiwinks was pure fan service, but that’s exactly what the show, and especially this season, needs right now. This was the hardest I’ve laughed along with SP in quite some time, and man it feels good to be back.

It’s a little too early still to tell how the season will shape out overall, a few good episodes won’t make up for entirely for the first half of the season, but if this week’s eyes welling with tears of laughter are a sign, SP has found new windin its sails.

And by the Catatafish, I really want the Lemmiwinks battle song on my iPod.

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