Yes, “The Fall,” this week’s “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the farmhouse” episode of The Following, may have destroyed (finally!) the pitiful “Emma, Jacob, and Paul share a life together” construct that had mired this program in some of the worst dialogue TV has ever heard, but based on the “everyone is a follower” new reality that allowed for an unrealistic escape and SWAT team coup d’état, there may be no light at the end of this serialized tunnel.  Notwithstanding, there is much we can learn from this episode about what is to come, about life, and about Claire’s taste in music.

Without further ado, here are the 11 most important things we learned from this week’s “The Fall” episode:

1. Ryan Hardy’s Kryptonite may be any kind of electrical shock that messes with his pacemaker.  Other Kryptonite candidates include drinking alcohol out of water bottles and getting involved in Joe Carroll’s case in the first place.

2. It is possible that Joey cares more about Paul and Jacob’s well-being more than Emma/Denise/crazy nanny.  It is also possible that Joey is a follower because based on the events in “The Fall,” anyone can be a follower!

3. At the end of the episode, Claire and Ryan were competing for the “most awkward hug ever on network television” award and at this point they are the one to beat.

4. Meghan Leeds, contrary to past actions, can successfully escape from farmhouses by running away.  Meghan, we are so proud of you.

5. Claire loves the music of Celine Dion (at least enough to attend a live concert, albeit a benefit).  Joe Carroll (“good god”) apparently does not.

6. In the world of The Following, “I am your follower” may be used as a pick-up line.

7. Paul, Jacob, and Emma are not the brightest characters that ever been conceived for television (Oops, we already knew that.  There is no harm in confirming).

8. Charlie, Claire’s abductor, seems like the ideal candidate to replace Emma in the Jacob/Paul love triangle.  His “lost and not too bright” quality will fit right in.

9. The writers of The Following think that conversations about embarrassment over “being gay” resonate with audiences.

10. Parker’s trip to Iowa in 2004 to see her cultish parents did not go too well and it wasn’t because the Field of Dreams park was closed for the season.

11. Next week Joe Carroll, through some legal wrangling, is granted a prison transfer (and we know how well prison transfers always seem to go).

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  For more in-depth opinions on movies, check out the “5 Things You Need To Know” page.

My Year in Movies 2012 (Finally!)

Right before I saw The Muppets in November of 2011, I commented to my closest movie allies that starting with this Kermit and friends’ return to cinematic form from Disney, the next 12-14 months could be the best year (or a little over a year) of cinema that I have ever experienced.  After The Muppets, there was a new Mission Impossible opening in December of 2011 (Ghost Protocol ended up as my favorite movie of 2011), and then 2012 was to feature a new historical drama from Steven Spielberg starring the great Daniel Day-Lewis, a new Bond, two new Marvel movies, a new Bourne, lots of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a prequel to Alien from Ridley Scott, a movie version of one of my all-time favorite musicals, a promising new Pixar outing, Peter Jackson’s return to Middle-Earth, and of course, the final installment in Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking Batman series.  Now, on the eve (or for many, morning) of the Oscars and the unofficial culmination of the 2012 year in cinema, despite some unfortunate disappointments (Middle-Earth did not feel so good in 2012), 2012 was as close to movie heaven as I could ask for.

What follows are my rankings, my designations, my Oscar votes (if I had them) in the six major categories, and some new awards that I have cooked up for 2012, an epic year of cinema:

2012 motion pictures: Lincoln

2012 movies that could have been motion pictures: The Dark Knight Rises, Zero Dark ThirtyThe Master

The best acting performance of 2012: Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln

Marvel movie that is probably a little bit overrated: The Avengers

Marvel movie that is probably a little bit underrated: The Amazing Spider-Man

5 most memorable sequences/scenes: The opening of The Dark Knight Rises, Silva’s single shot first scene in Skyfall, the hood scene from Django Unchainedthe tsunami attack in The Impossible, Georges’ pigeon pursuit in Amour

Best footage to be used in an acting master class: The entire performance of Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s interview scene with Joaquin Phoenix in The Master

Most unexpected narrative turn of events: The use of bears in The Brave

Ranking the Joseph Gordon-Levitt performances: 1. John Blake in The Dark Knight Rises  2. Playing a young Bruce Willis in Looper  3. Bike messenger in Premium Rush  4. A forgettable Robert Lincoln in Lincoln

Best performance by an animal: Richard Parker in Life of Pi

Worst performance by an animal: The wolves in The Grey

The movies that made me think the most after viewing: The Master, Looper, Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, The Dark Knight Rises

The movies that made me think the least after viewing: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Flight, Savages

The most emotional movie experiences: The Impossible, Lincoln

The least emotional movie experiences: The Grey, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I just don’t get why people liked it: The Hunger Games, The Grey, Deep Blue Sea, 21 Jump Street

I just don’t get why people don’t like it more: The Bourne Legacy, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Impossible

Movies that could have been longer: The Dark Knight Rises, Lincoln, The Impossible

Movies that should have been shorter: The Master, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Django Unchained

Performances that needed to be longer to make more sense: Gloria Reuben in Lincoln, Marion Cotillard in The Dark Knight Rises

Best use of television actors from favorite TV shows in movies: Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) in Argo, Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) in Argo, Jared Harris (Mad Men) in Lincoln, Victor Garber (Alias) in ArgoBradley Cooper (Alias) in Silver Linings Playbook, Martin Freeman (Sherlock, The Office) in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Aidan Gillen (The Wire, Game of Thrones) in The Dark Knight Rises

Most distracting use of television actors from favorite TV shows in movies: Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) in Zero Dark Thirty, James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) in Zero Dark Thirty, Harold Perrineau (Lost) in Zero Dark Thirty

Movies that I saw because I like the actor, but the movie was not very good: Deep Blue Sea (Rachel Weisz), The Grey (Liam Neeson), Premium Rush (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)

Best use of Jeremy Renner: The Bourne Legacy

Worst use of Jeremy Renner: The Avengers

Nominees for the “welcome back to the cinema” award: Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, after the challenge that was War Horse – Steven Spielberg, Batman, James Bond, a Pixar movie not featuring cars

Movies where death is a struggle to watch: The Impossible, Amour

Movies where death seems too easy to watch: Django Unchained, Skyfall

Accents that worked the best: Tom Hardy as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, John Hawkes in The Sessions

Accents that struggled the most: Helen Hunt in The Sessions, Halle Berry in Cloud Atlas

Best adaptation of a book into a movie: Lincoln (Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin)

Worst adaptation of a book into a movie: Cloud AtlasThe Hunger Games

Directors I am interested to see more from: Rian Johnson (Looper), Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Directors I have seen enough from: Tom Hooper (Les Miserables)

When AFI picks the best movies of the 21st Century, the likely nominees from 2012 are: Lincoln, Argo

Best use of a one word title: Brave, Argo, Amour

Worst use of a one word title: FlightSavages

The “I want to see that again” award: The Dark Knight Rises, Looper, Argo

The No Country For Old Men “I liked it, but I never want to see that movie again” award: The Impossible, Amour

The “a great movie to take a nap in” award: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Grey

My biggest disappointment: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

My most pleasant surprise: The Bourne Legacy, Django Unchained

Movies with the greatest number of moments that I had to turn away or close my eyes because it was so difficult to watch: Django Unchained, Amour, Prometheus

Movies with the greatest number of moments that I did turn away because I didn’t care and looking up IMDB facts on my phone was more interesting: Flight, The Grey, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

After 2012, actors that I want to see more of: Jessica Chastain, Christoph Waltz, Quevenzhané Wallis, Daniel Day-Lewis

After 2012, actors I want to see less of: Halle Berry, Helen Hunt, Wes Bentley

The award for “highest quality funeral guest list”: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in The Dark Knight Rises

Movie that would have been great on stage: Lincoln

Movie that should have remained on stage: Les Misérables

My 5 least favorite movies of 2012: Deep Blue Sea, Savages, The Grey, 21 Jump Street, The Hunger Games

My 5 favorite movies 2012: The Dark Knight Rises, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, The Bourne Legacy

My favorite movie of 2012: The Dark Knight Rises

The best movie of 2012: Lincoln


Finally, if I had an Oscar vote, here are my selections in the six major categories (in order of voting):


Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, Django Unchained, Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Silver Linings PlaybookLes Misérables, Life of Pi


Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables), Denzel Washington (Flight)


Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Naomi Watts (The Impossible), Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)


Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master), Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained), Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln), Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook), Alan Arkin (Argo)


Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables), Amy Adams (The Master), Sally Field (Lincoln), Helen Hunt (The Sessions), Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)


Steven Spielberg (Lincoln), Michael Haneke (Amour), Ang Lee (Life of Pi), Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild), David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)


David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  For more in depth opinions on movies, check out the “5 Things You Need To Know” page.




When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.  Additional note: I have finally (!!!) finished working my way through the movies that are relevant to this weekend’s Academy Awards (nominated in one of the six major categories).  LIFE OF PI was the last movie to see.

5 Things You Need to Know About… 


1) Ang Lee (nominated for Best Director) is a master director of both the visual scope (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and of the personal voice (Brokeback MountainThe Ice Storm).  Life of Pi fits well into this construct as a visual masterwork that is created as a beautiful fusion of perspective, light, and color.  Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is gorgeous to view and a credit to his vision.

2) Along those lines, Ang Lee’s use of CGI is effortless and without customary “pulling you out of the moment” detection distraction (see movies made by George Lucas over the last 16 years).  The majority of the movie takes place in the middle of the ocean focusing on the relationship between Pi and Richard Parker, a Bengal tiger.  Richard Parker’s shots in the movie are 86% CGI, but while viewing, you are largely unaware and connect to their burgeoning symbiotic bond as completely real.  

3) Based on conversations I have had with passionate readers of the book (I have unfortunately not read the book), something is left on the table in the movie version of Life of Pi.  It is an incredibly difficult movie to make (it requires some near impossible shots) and Ang Lee has certainly succeeded in so much of his execution, yet something feels unfinished, as if there was an additional layer of meaning that was not given due attention.  It is more “let’s try to make a movie version of Life of Pi” than “let’s try to make Life of Pi.”  It is a partial version, but somehow (and admittedly ambiguously) less than the real thing.

4) At one point, M. Night Shyamalan (the best metaphor for his career: a free fall) was attached to write and direct this project.  Fortunately, by the time Life of Pi was made, he was unattached.  One can only imagine where he would have positioned his “once a movie” cameo.  I fear he may have portrayed one of the zoo animals or a Hindu god.

5) Life of Pi, a movie about a young man’s epic journey of survival across the Pacific Ocean accompanied by a Bengal tiger and his faith, is visually stunning and captivating, yet it rarely dives as deep below the surface as we want it to to fully explore its’ biggest ideas.  We are watching Pi’s story as a viewer from the outside in, but rarely from the inside out, and the result is often breathtaking, but not as profound or as life-affirming as the source material seems to have the potential to suggest.

5 Things You Need To Know: Amour

When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.  Additional note: I am working my way through the movies that are relevant to this weekend’s Academy Awards (nominated in one of the six major categories).  Stay tuned for LIFE OF PI (my final viewing) before Sunday’s Oscar telecast.

5 Things You Need to Know About… 


1. Although Amour is nominated for Best Picture at this weekend’s Academy Awards, it is justifiably not going to win (there are several more deserving pictures).  It is not an epic tour de force, nor the most groundbreaking work of modern cinema, nor one of the handful of films of 2012 that we are going to remember for decades to come.  However, Amour is the most intimate, the most personal, and presents the the most realistic relationship (between Jean-Louis Trintignant’s Georges and Emmauelle Riva’s Anne) of any film I saw in 2012.

2. Speaking of Emmanuelle Riva, WOW.  Born in 1927 (!) and turning 86 (!!!) on Oscar Sunday, this French screen star of more than the last half century portrays Anne’s struggle with a degenerative and debilitating illness after suffering a stroke with a beautiful command of the both the physical and emotional pain.  Her embodiment of Anne is absolute and deeply vulnerable and subsequently at times quite difficult to watch.  Anne’s journey toward death is so unexpectedly alive (and Best Director nominee Michael Haneke does not hold back) exploring feelings of embarrassment, frustration, and nostalgia that when it reaches its final stage, we too mourn the loss.  Madame Riva is rightfully nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture and in a field of performances without a definitive frontrunner, she would be a deserving winner.

3. Jean-Louis Trintignant’s portrayal of Georges (he turns 83 in December) may not be a formal Oscar contender like his co-star, but his performance is just as brilliantly vulnerable, painfully real, and expertly executed.  We never consider Monsieur Trintignant to be acting – he is Georges and watching him walk the walk of his love through his steadfast (though it times tested) all encompassing care and support of Anne earns the film’s title.

4. According to Oscar prognosticators, Michael Haneke is in the mix to win Best Director (Mr. Spielberg may have something to say about this), and, even if he does not have my vote, I am most impressed with his work.  He directs Amour delicately, attending to the subtleties and precious mundanities of both the sights and sounds of home life as an enhancement of all the more there is to lose.  His cameras give complete access to the Parisian flat – we too feel trapped in the downward inevitability of Anne’s physical condition – such that by the end of the film it feels like we have lived there for decades.  Most impressively, it is evident that Haneke fostered a working environment for his actors that was based on an essential trust among Monsieur Trintingant, Madame Rivas, and himself.  This trust yielded the most incredible results.

5.  Amour is a film (a foreign film!) that depicts loves final chapter without inhibition.  Although the decision to see Amour is a harrowing commitment in itself, its beautiful lessons about the commitment part of love are worth the toll of admission.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  


In my “searching for an explanation” mind, this is the conversation that could have happened in the writers room between The Following showrunner and head writer Kevin Williamson and Rebecca Dameron, a staff writer whose previous credits include Army Wives and Dirt, after last week’s “viewer discretion is advised because it is terrible television” episode titled “Mad Love”:

RD: Hi Kevin, do you think I could talk to you?

KW: Of course, Rebecca.  What is on your mind?

RD: I have been working on writing next week’s episode and I was hoping to run some of my ideas by you.  Some of them may be a little dramatic.

KW: Ooh, more drama?  Like another shower scene for Paul, Jacob, and Emma?  Will there be more amazing senseless and unjustified violent scenes?  Will Meghan, the store clerk hostage, have another opportunity to cry?  I can’t wait to hear your ideas!

RD: Actually, I wanted to try something a little new…

KW: Ok, I mean are we talking about showing Ryan Hardy using a bottle of soda instead of a bottle of water as an alcoholic container because we haven’t tried that yet?

RD: Hmm.  Not that.

KW: There are several of Poe’s short poems that we haven’t used…

RD: Yeah, so I was kind of thinking that it might be time for the whole farmhouse plot to reach a climax.

KW: Rebecca, this show is on Fox at 9 PM so although I would love to show more of the Emma and Paul sex scenes…

RD: No!  I was talking about having Ryan and the FBI find the farmhouse and attempt to rescue Joey.

KW: Hmm.  Has Joey even had enough time to check out all of his toys yet?  It seemed like he just got to the farm?

RD: Yeah, so I was going to call it “The Siege” and Ryan and some local police are going to find the farmhouse just as Joey is realizing that this whole experience is not really what it seems.  I also thought I would end the episode in a little cliffhanger with Ryan being caught by Paul in an attempt to rescue Joey.  The last shot would be a gun to Ryan’s head.  Hopefully this will set-up a standoff between the FBI and the “followers” with Ryan and Joey stuck inside.

KW: Wow, there is a lot to consider.  So your cliffhanger is not going to involve the reveal of a new follower and a showcase of an awesome violent act?

RD: No, I was just thinking that you would be left with the uncertainty of Ryan and Joey in danger?

KW: Well, if you are going to call it “The Siege,” there must be some wonderful opportunities for the most violent casualties along the way.  I mean, unjustified and gratuitous violence is our brand!

RD: Yeah, I thought about making the casualties come across as justified and real.  I also wanted to introduce a new layer to the plot involving Joe Carroll’s lawyer sending a message through the media that sets the next group of followers into action.

KW: More followers?  I always just assumed that Emma, Jacob, and Paul would be enough?

RD: I just thought that since the show is called The Following, maybe Joe Carroll’s endgame has to be a little bit more involved than just these three and the memories of Rick and Jordy?

KW: Alright, Rebecca Dameron.  Go for it!  I am off working on a new screenplay called “I Know What Dawson Did Last Winter” anyway.  Best of luck with your teleplay!

My crude attempt at satire notwithstanding, “The Siege” (actually penned by Rebecca Dameron), was definitively the best episode of the series to date and really found its way in the 24 model.  The suspense and pacing were on point, the plot actually thickened with productive forward movement, the “lawyer message/unleash the twins” subplot took the show in an appreciative new direction, and, although there were still deaths on this murderous trail, they were within the construct of the story and did not present as gratuitous for violence’s sake.  This was riveting TV and represents a respectable high ceiling for what The Following could consistently be.  I hope Rebecca Dameron gets more opportunities (or writers like her) and that next week’s “The Fall” is finally the fall of the farmhouse follower love triangle of Emma, Jacob, and Paul.

What do you all think?  Did “The Siege” deliver some new hope?  Are you excited for another episode devoid of violence for violence’s sake?  Does Joey get some revenge?

David Bloom can be reached on twitter at @davidbloom7.  He writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.

CHALLENGE 24: Picking an All-Star Season

It’s happened.  Sometime earlier in the week, MTV (through their MTV remote control blog – clever name network formally known for music videos) formally acknowledged what has been known to us legion of devoted fans for some time: The Challenge is the fifth major American professional sport (sorry NASCAR wannabes) and it is time for a professional all-star game season voted on by the fans.  That’s right: the participants on the 24th season of The Challenge (they make it seem like “Challenge 24” may never “see the light of day,” but on a network that can produce several too many Teen Mom iterations, who are they kidding?) are going to be chosen by (or at least influenced by) who takes the time to go and vote.  This unprecedented move is a complete first for this form of reality tv competition program (if you can even call it that, The Challenge is so much more) and represents an incredible opportunity to have a say in who we want to watch.

In the spirit of honoring its rightful place in the professional sport fraternity, how twitter can and will be a major factor in this voting process, and the whole “Challenge 24” motif, I have decided to select the participants for this All-Star game season like the NBA (whose All-Star game is appropriately this weekend).  In the NBA All-Star process, there are twelve players for each conference: the five starters are voted on by the fans and the remaining seven participants are selected by a vote of the coaches.  In my mock The Challenge All-Star season formatting, I will choose twelve men and twelve women, the five “starters” will be the top five current vote getters in the most up to date polls remote control blog polls, and the seven remaining players will be chosen by me (a group of coaches I cannot find).  Like the NBA voting process, not every viable participant is included in the ballot.  Therefore, I will choose one additional “coaches pick” for both the men and women from an incredible group of past participants not included in the twenty names that MTV has provided.

Before we delve into my selections, I would be remiss to not breakdown the simply amazing prose and preamble that the MTV remote control blog provides for this innovative process (my comments are imbedded below):

“With 23 seasons under its belt, “The Challenge” has begun to sprout one or two silver hairs, but, as proven over the years, maturity doesn’t necessarily come with age.” (The awareness that The Challenge may have “sprouted one or two silver hairs” is just short of brilliant, and based on some of the nighttime activities in Turkey, maturity and age are not synonymous) No matter how many old or new faces picked for a game, it always delivers the nail-biting battles (and personal beefs) we’ve come to love. (Amen.  Battle of the Seasons really accentuated this point.  It delivered the goods with a cast of predominantly rookies and largely unproven veterans.) And we, like you, hope it’s only a matter of time before we’re off to some exotic land to fight another good fight. (Seriously.  Make it happen, MTV).

With 15 years’ (this is simply an incredible number) worth of participants on our hands, it’s impossible (so impossible!) to predict how any future roster might look, which is why we’re curious to hear YOUR opinion (Thank you.  The time had come). In the event “Challenge 24” ever sees the light of day (and it will), who would you want to see competing? Take our girls and guys polls below, and if you happen to check the “Other” box in either, make sure to write your picks in the comments.” (I love the crude methodology of picking an “other.”)

Now, on to the women and men All-Star teams.  I have included the MTV remote control blog person descriptions (because some of them are just that good) with my additional comments added as well.

THE WOMEN – STARTERS (according to the voting polls)

Laurel (15% of the vote!) – 4th season – “The outspoken Amazonian who doesn’t put up with BS.”


Should she be selected as a starter?

Yes!  Her incredibly high vote percentage (twice the percentage of the next women) is a testament to her watchability as both a competitor and an after hours drama participant.  Since her first days as the “fresh meat” to Kenny’s then newly earned veteran status on Fresh Meat 2, Laurel has been a Challenge force.  Her recent reconciliation and beautifully kindled friendship with Cara Maria on Rivals are some of the best redemptive moments that this show has ever seen.  Laurel is not afraid to mix it up with both men (in competition) or women (anywhere) and is a deserved lock for any All-Star season, whether she is a starter or a reserve.

Sarah – 7th season – “The most well-rounded “Challenger” to never win the game.”


Should she be selected as a starter?

Absolutely.  I have written this many times before in this space (she rocked it on Battle of the Seasons, spending most of the season on top of the weekly power rankings), but an All-Star season would not be the same without Sarah.  She is a fierce competitor who loves competing, loves puzzles, loves being a member of a team, loves trivia, and is a joyous presence for the viewer.  Her Paula-like quest for Challenge victory is a compelling narrative to follow on any season, but especially on an All-Star season when the stakes are raised so much higher.

Cara Maria – 6th season “The sensitive soul who throws down when it matters most.”

Cara Maria

Should she be selected as a starter?

As a starter, maybe not, but she should surely be a member of the team.  After the too-short and drama heavy Fresh Meat debacle on Battle of the Seasons this fall, Cara Maria is ready to be back in a competition with teammates who can actually complete challenges without disqualifying.  It will be interesting to see what the Laurel/Cara Maria tandem can do now that their “rivalry” has been converted to bonafide “bff” territory.

Paula – 10th season – “The die-hard competitor whose emotions sometimes get the best of her.”


Should she be selected as a starter?

Without question, you cannot do an All-Star season of The Challenge without Paula, whose nine season quest for victory (an amazing win finally during “Rivals” with Ev is a major event in Challenge history) has been a key component of The Challenge evolution.  Her insider politicking, social game ties, underrated athletic toughness, and inevitable once a season meltdown put her certainly on the female Mount Rushmore of Challenge participants.

Kelly Anne – 3rd season –  “The hot chick who is much tougher than she looks.”

Kelly Anne

Should she be selected as a starter?

She is definitely a surprise starter (barely beating out Ev for fifth place) and probably would not have made the team otherwise (some may say the KG of the The Challenge All-Stars – although I strongly dispute that Kevin Garnett is not one of the twelve best players in the Eastern Conference).  Her Challenge history is short and not too memorable beyond the relationship theater that is any romantic involvement with Wes.  To her credit, she is willing to mix it up in both competition and in late night tomfoolery, will have a little something extra to prove, and will be a potentially intriguing ingredient to the mix.  Also, in the Challenge rumor mill, there is a story out there about Kelly Anne refusing to participate in the Battle of the Seasons Turkish Vacation when she heard that Wes would be there.  If true, her involvement in an All-Star season that should also feature Wes seems to be a no-brainer.







Evelyn – 8th season – “The born athlete who is rarely taken down.”

Jenn – 7th season – “The itty-bitty spitfire who tells it like it is.”






Camila – 5th season – “The fiesty Spring-Breaker with a record-setting temper.”

Trishelle – 4th season – “The comeback kid.”






Devyn – 2nd season – “The quick-witted beauty queen who’s not such a clutch athlete.”

Marie – 2nd season – “The win focused rookie who always love a good happy hour.”






Nany – 2nd season – “The girl who rides speedy loops on the emotional roller-coaster.”

Emily – 3rd season – WILD CARD selection


This was a surprisingly challenging group of women to decide upon, but looking at them top to bottom, they all pass the “who do you most want to see on the next Challenge?” test.  Ev, of the original Fresh Meat, will provide a consummate competitive fire and is one of the only women here who may align (based upon past seasons) with Wes.  She will not be afraid to stand up to anyone (especially the JEK Dynasty) while still commanding a great deal of respect from all of those around her.  Jenn is a Challenge mainstay that always places herself in the central mix of strategy and drama.  She should have been selected as a starter over Kelly Anne.  Camila’s Battle of the Seasons uncomfortable exit (the one in which she verbally berated her clearly overmatched teammate, Big Easy) and her Exes victory tour with Mr. Johnny Bananas highlight the ups and downs that accompany this Brazilian spitfire.  She is a lock.  Trishelle gets my nod for the All-Star season over Coral for the “old school woman slot” because of her great work on Battle of the Seasons, often playing a key intermediary role in conflict resolution.  Trishelle made some important connections with some of the new blood and I fear that Coral will find herself very out of place with this mostly younger women crowd (Fear not Coral fans: I have a place for her later on).  Devyn, Nany, and Marie all earned their place in an All-Star season for having breakout campaigns on Battle of the Seasons.  Devyn is going to be the best female soundbite and a perfect guide to describe the action to the viewer .  Her lack of athletic prowess is still a factor, but an All-Star season would just not be as much fun without her.  Nany had an incredible rookie season (that should not have been cut so short) in which she exhibited the commitment and fight of Sarah and the nighttime volatility of Camila.  Marie will bring a similar mix (but different flavor) of fierce competitor and inebriated crazy.  Both Nany and Marie will not be intimidated by anyone (Marie was having none of Wes on his brief stay on Battle of the Seasons) and will not waver on the fact that they have earned their right to participate in “Challenge 24.”  My wildcard selection is Emily (from Real World: DC) who, after Exes, is unfortunately remembered for some of the wrong reasons (the infamous blackface incident directed at partner, Ty), but is one of the best female athletes this show has ever seen and will be a worthy physical match against Ev and Laurel.  She is also a stabilizing force (in the Sarah vein) and this group of women could use a little more of that.

Most difficult omissions:

Coral, Jasmine, Katie

Coral and Katie were both tough decisions.  Trishelle seems like a better selection for that the “old school” slot.  Jasmine has been an enjoyable member of the gang, but ironically, her more down-to-earth version on Battle of the Seasons is not as television compelling as her wine glass throwing freak outs of past seasons.

Other people not selected:

Rachel, Aneesa, Jemmye, Jonna, Naomi

Aneesa and Rachel have both had their time on the show and would not fit in too well with much of the above group (Exes was a bit of a social game struggle).  Jemmye had a very sweet first season, but needs more opportunities to be seriously considered.  Naomi , like Devyn, is not cut out for athletic competitions, but, unlike Devyn, has not yet exhibited an incredible wit and sense of humor.  After her Battle of the Seasons reunion sour demeanor, I am not sure Jonna is going to have any fun on an All-Star season.

Other potential wildcards not selected:

Veronica, Tonya, Tori (retired and happily married to Brad)


THE MEN – STARTERS (according to the voting polls)

CT – 9th season – “The closest thing “The Challenge” has to the Terminator.”


Should he be selected as a starter?

Yes, without question.  Despite CT’s losing record (he has never won a Challenge), he is one of the definitive stars of this franchise.  His physical prowess goes without saying, he commands a healthy combination of respect and fear from all, and his recent streak of a kinder and gentler Chris is a late career reinvention.  Formally the enemy and chief rival of the JEK Dynasty boys, CT 2.0 is a more nuanced and more thoughtful individual outside of competition, but within the playing field, there is no one who will be more of a force.  His commanding first place lead in votes among men is well-deserved.

Kenny – 8th season – “You know him as Mr. Beautiful.”


Should he be selected as a starter?

The Men’s vote is 2 for 2.  Kenny, as the “K” in the JEK Dynasty, has been one of the most instrumental people in fostering the growth of The Challenge into the phenomenon and respected national sport it has become.  An original Fresh Meat participant, there is no one who can cut you down with words and then in the next moment bring you back up with a smile as well as Mr. Beautiful (Sarah knows all too well).  He has not performed as well as his past elite level in recent seasons, so he will be even hungrier this time around especially to show some of the less proven fellow men (he’s looking at you Frank) a thing or to about the history of this game.

Evan – 6th season – “The cocky smart guy who only can be trusted by his boys.”


Should he be selected as a starter?

Yes, absolutely.  Like Kenny, Evan, the E of the JEK and an original Fresh Meat (Coral’s partner), is one of the men who has brought The Challenge to new heights.  His unfortunate and poorly conceived Rivals feud with Nehemiah was a tough last memory, so this All-star season surrounded by his traditional allies and some rambunctious (see: Frank) new competition will be a great platform for the Canadian.  Evan is a great athlete, a sound strategist, and an effective communicator who can sometimes be the more approachable public face than his more antagonistic partners, Johnny and Kenny.

Johnny – 9th season – “The self-proclaimed asshole with an impressive record”

Johnny Bananas

Should he be selected as a starter?

Yes and he probably deserves to be the leading vote getter.  An All-Star season would be his 9th, and there is a reason why Johnny Bananas (the J of JEK) has continued to be at the center of season after season of The Challenge: He has been able to find the perfect combination as a dynamic and engaging social power player while maintaining his competition cred in challenges.  He is always interesting and compelling, provocative about everything, and ultra-competitive.  His most recent wins in Exes and Rivals highlight how his often abrasive outer persona (I will never forget his motivational tactics with Camila in the final challenge) have proven to motivate individuals that he has some difficult history with (His redemptive win on Rivals with Tyler was one for the ages).  Of all past participants, Johnny Bananas may be The Challenge’s brightest star.

Dustin – 3rd season – “The guy with no misgivings about getting street.”


Should he be selected as a starter?

You can make this argument.  Although Frank and Zach may have something to say about this, I think Dustin was the breakout male star of Battle of the Seasons (consistently topping the weekly power rankings) and is primed to be a Challenge regular for years to come.  Although he did have his moments of reaching his breaking point (certainly with Trishelle and maybe at night he can get a little too street), his combination of competitive fire, athleticism, and loyalty (his older brother/little sister relationship with Nany is of the most endearing terms) are of the highest caliber.  He will be willing to compete against the big boys (CT, JEK) and will quickly earn their respect.








Wes – 8th season – “Plain and simple: The man with a plan.”

Mark – 7th season – “The old dude who belongs on Olympus.”







Dunbar – 6th season – “An odd dichotomy of introvert and screaming-match contender.”

Chet – 4th season – “The straightlaced bow-tie sporter with a little chip on his shoulder.”







Leroy – 3rd season – “The tenacious warrior with a heart of gold.”

Zach – 2nd season – “The hulking rookie who has no patience for quitters.”






Frank – 2nd season – “The emotional time bomb.”

Derrick  – 9th season – WILD CARD selection


Wes could be a starter (only over Dustin), but is a definitive lock as a reserve.  He has been the thorn in the JEK dynasty’s side for many years and embraces the target that always finds itself on his carrot top head.  He is an adversary, an antagonist, and a grand strategist who has earned his Challenge stripes overcoming many an elimination.  Mark gets the “old school slot” for the men because he is Challenge pioneer, well-liked by all, and now, into his forties, a freak of a physical specimen.  His recent connection to Johnny and CT on Exes and his ability to connect with so many different kinds of people will allow him to fit in in ways that Coral, another old school vet, may struggle with.  Dunbar gets the nod here over Tyler because in part, Tyler’s story seemed to find a perfect final moment (the Johnny Bananas redemptive victory on Rivals) and Dunbar still has much to prove to some of his Challenge peers.  Forever linked to Paula (as infamously highlighted with a partnership on Exes), Dunbar puts up metaphoric consistent numbers season after season, but has yet to have that definitive moment.  Chet earned his All-Star selection with a great showing on Battle of the Seasons that combined his wit (the male version of Devyn) with a newfound athletic and competitive drive.  Leroy has been a joy to watch in his three brief seasons of The Challenge, earned immediate respect from Johnny and the power structure, and is going to be a major force in competition.  Both Zach and Frank, with their Battle of the Seasons win and drama-filled rookie season, earned the right to compete against the Challenge royalty.  It will be interesting to see how they build an alliance amongst this group of veterans.  Derrick gets my nod as the wild card selection (over the stiffest of competition!) because of his amazing athletic ability, physical tenacity and determination, and, like Emily, he will be a rational, stabilizing force.  It seemed like each time he linked up with the JEK brotherhood they were the better for it because Derrick knows how to cut out some of the derailment that stems from late night extracurricular activities.

Most difficult omissions:

Tyler, Knight, Mike

Knight is a rising star, but it is just not his time yet.  A few more seasons under his belt and he will be on this list.  As already stated, Tyler’s career had a perfect ending and you don’t want to mess with that.  Mike is a pleasure to watch (especially when he and Leroy are giving us a peek into their genuinely beautiful friendship), but does not have the experience to warrant a selection just yet.

Other people not selected:

Trey, Robb, Alton, Big Easy, Vinny

Before Battle of the Seasons, Alton would have been a starter on this list, but, after the roller-coaster ride that was his time in Turkey, I am not sure he should be competing in The Challenge anymore.  Trey and Robb both have more to prove.  Vinny should be banned for life.  Finally, Big Easy is too much of a liability on a few too many challenges and it would be a shame for any of his teammates to have to lose because of him again.

Other potential wildcards not selected (and mind you, many of which I would have chosen over some of the 20 eligible vote getters):

Darrell (there was room for only one wild card, he has an incredible record of winning), Landon (I am not sure why he wasn’t he included in the vote), Brad (happily retired and married to Tori), Abram (he would have probably beat some of the current reserves if he had been in the voting), Ty , CJ, Miz (competing may not be the right thing for him at this point, but there may be something else for him to do…)

Finally, one thing The Challenge has sorely needed over the seasons has been some kind of sound resource for participants to go to to discuss strategy, different issues, or for in-game advice.  In the All-Star game season vein, for the first time there should be team coaches who are there for such a purpose.  My coach selections are the Miz for the men and Coral for the women.  Wouldn’t Dustin benefit from the Miz’s take on how to come back at Frank?  Couldn’t you see Coral giving Nany some tough love, but useful advice about why she needs to hold it together better?  Who doesn’t want this?  Yes, this needs to happen.

To recap the final selections…


Coach: Coral

Starters: Laurel, Sarah, Cara Maria, Paula, Kelly Anne

Reserves: Evelyn, Jenn, Camila, Trishelle, Devyn, Nany, Marie, Emily (wild card selection)


Coach: The Miz

Starters: CT, Kenny, Evan, Johnny, Dustin

Reserves: Wes, Mark, Dunbar, Chet, Leroy, Zach, Frank, Derrick (wild card selection)

MTV – great work with this poll.  You killed it.  Now the ball is in your court.  It is time for “Challenge 24” to become a reality.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  He writes weekly TV columns on (currently, Fox’s “The Following”) and his THE CHALLENGE: Power Rankings can be read on Derek Kosinski’s


Every The Following episode begins with the ominous voice of television doom reminding us that “viewer discretion is advised.”  This designation stems from the use of suggestive language (apparently there are quite a few inappropriate innuendos in Poe’s catalog of work), language itself (is this a warning about some questionable dialogue?), sexual situations (like Ryan Hardy and Claire Matthews “getting to know each other” flashbacks?), and violence (The Following’s incessant and overused calling card).  Considering the recent narrative events and a growing “elephant in the room” of an otherwise watchable and intriguing, if not captivating, suspense filled drama series, I would formally like to add a fifth category for viewer discretion: “unwatchable scenes involving the nanny and the two gay guys.”

In this week’s episode entitled “Mad Love” (an actual winning title for the events that transpired), the situation on the Emma/Jacob/Paul farm is in shambles.  Last week Paul, in an uninspired, unmotivated, and unrealistic fit of jealous rage, took a little trip to a local convenience store and abducted an easily seduced store clerk (“When do you get off work?”).  He then brilliantly decides to bring her to the farmhouse basement to prove to Emma and Jacob just how serious about this situation he is!  Joey, still blissfully chilling with his toys, must not find out about the tied up young girl in the cellar or he will start to suspect something is amiss (and he is already beginning to), so the unwitting store clerk named Meghan Leeds must be killed.  Paul, to prove this most unnecessary point, thinks that Jacob should be the one to do it.  Apparently, unlike Paul and Emma who came into the land of Joe Carroll because of a mutual interest in the killing arts, Jacob fabricated his murderous backstory to the little legion of doom and has yet to do the deed.  Emma does not know this, but Paul does (listen – three years imbedded as boyfriends will give you the opportunity to share) and wants to get back at Jacob (this is all so silly) for having a romantic thing with Emma (“he was my man!”).  Emma is none too pleased with Jacob’s deceit (his killing history is so essential to her feelings for him) and agrees with Paul that Jacob should be the one to eliminate Meghan the unwitting store clerk.

Quick side note: If this above paragraph all seems a whole lot of terrible storytelling, you would be correct.  It is all the worse when the plot points are played out on screen with dialogue.  These are some of the worst dramatic scenes I have ever seen on television.

In a narrative strand consistent with the awfulness of the world of Emma/Paul/Jacob, but disparate from any realistic scenario, Emma and Paul decide to leave Jacob alone in the basement for many hours to kill Meghan the unwitting store clerk.  Mtusc rocks a plea bargain with sympathetic Jacob to let her go with some bloody cuts (to sell the tale) and she will never mention this little day and night at the farmhouse to anyone, ever.  Jacob not only obliges to her grovel, but he refrains from creating a bloody trail.  Mtusc, in a move that everyone saw coming, decides to run to the barn on the property instead of running away from the property.  Team Paul and Emma (bonding over their killing past now that they both know Jacob is a truth fabricator) easily track her down and, to motivate their shameful mutual boy toy, tie her up again so that Jacob will be forced to make another attempt (mind you, it seems like they have forgotten the “Joey might find out” angle).

In the worst scene of a series of worst scenes, the muddy pursuit (how and why remains a mystery) of Mtusc warrants a clean in the shower.  Emma is the first to hit the bathroom and happily invites Paul to join her and then (who didn’t see this coming?) make out (is this one of the sexual situations I was advised about?).  Jacob finds a returned Mtusc in the basement and then heads to up to the bathroom to atone for his lack of courage.  Emma lets him know that “we’re not going to give up on you” (comforting) and then Jacob decides to join the shower, but with his clothes on (BTW – where is Joey in all this?  Asleep?  Still playing with his toys?).

Thankfully, The Following is not called “Two fake gay guys, a nanny, and Joeyand has another world outside of the remote rural farmhouse of awfulness.  Ryan Hardy’s bad day (week or life really) continues when he receives a phone call from Jenny (phone number 8675309), his loyal sister and restauranteur, who has been abducted herself by Maggie, the vindictive Carroll follower whose now dead (via Hardy’s bullet) husband and love of life Rick set the world ablaze last week.  Maggie decides to go a little off the Carroll script (Yes!  I hope this trend continues) and ultimatums Hardy that unless he shows up in Brooklyn alone at Jenny’s restaurant without any FBI backup, Jenny Jenny (who can I turn to?) is going to be her next victim.  Hardy obliges the deal, but not before Mike Weston (both the viewer and Hardy learn his name for the first time, apparently the time had come) forces himself into relevance in both Hardy and the show’s life.  Weston or Mike (I couldn’t tell what he wanted us to call him) will drive Hardy to Brooklyn and then wait (patiently I might add) by a door left ajar to come and save the day if need be (Hardy’s instructions to Weston were actually to save his sister at all costs and forget about him).

At the Brooklyn upscale eatery, Hardy willingly accepts the blindfold challenge laid out by Maggie (never a good idea), is knocked out, and then tied up to a table of danger.  Maggie has purchased a series of magnets that will effectively tamper with Ryan’s pacemaker and cause cardiac arrest.  Maggie wants Jenny to watch her brother and only family she has left die (we learn in a Claire Matthews/Ryan Hardy “getting to know you” flashback conversation that was playfully ironic that the older Hardy brother died in 9/11 – of course).  Weston or Mike (great to have you onboard!) storms in just in time, kills Maggie (it was time), and saves Ryan from his death.  The catch in all of this is that Maggie and the horrible farmhouse trio had been in phone contact on a secure line that the FBI group can now track down (and do!) to a remote location in upstate New York.  This means that, as previewed in “next week on The Following,” Hardy, Weston, and the good guy team are going to attempt to rescue Joey from the most awful characters in modern television history!  One silver lining of the Emma/Jacob/Paul catastrophe is in the fact that on The Following character kill-offs are commonplace, so maybe we will soon be out of the crosshairs of this unwatchable threesome.  My hope is that next week brings such a conclusion.

What do you all think?  Are you on Team Jacob or Team Paul?  Will Meghan the unwitting store clerk survive the FBI raid?  Is Jenny Hardy an incredible cook?

David Bloom can be reached on twitter at @davidbloom7.  His other pop culture writing can be found on Bishop and Company (

Following the Following: The Poet’s Fire

Poor Ryan Hardy.  The burdensome symbiosis of his relationship with serial killer and incarcerated Poe mask cult leader Joe Carroll (as we learn in this episode, Hardy may have had time as one of Carroll’s followers, albeit non-violent) haunts his every waking (of which there are only, he’s not going back to the hotel to sleep) moments.  Each layer of Carroll’s master plan Hardy touches seems to be mired with new death by new means (Eye stabbings!  Public burnings!).  Hardy’s career success (each episode features another “I loved your book!” vignette) is intertwined and forever linked to Joe Carroll’s own serial killer career aspirations.  Without Carroll there is no Hardy and more and more, without Hardy to torment, Joe Carroll is just another charismatic English professor of 19th Century American Literature.

Although “The Poet’s Fire” was stuffed with some of the troublesome dribble that had diluted the enjoyment of the “Pilot” and “Chapter Two” (the scenes with the nanny and the fake gay neighbors are some of the worst moments of television I have ever experienced especially when Paul decides to “blow off some steam” in town), I am beginning to see this show in a different light.  As discussed a few weeks ago, The Following was billed as Fox’s attempt to bring a “the revolution was televised”-like show to network television, with all of the grittiness and storytelling risks that can come with it.  So far, those “risks” seemed to be consigned to superfluous “in your face” violence that were unwarranted and wholly unnecessary.  It was violence for violence’s sake (because The Following was somehow different) and as a talking point for the water cooler blogosphere, a challenging viewing experience.  “The Poet’s Fire” may have burned some of this silliness out of the system and illuminated The Following for what it really is – a well-paced, intense, “danger around every corner” thriller, that is less about the minions who cause damage, but more about the pyschological chess match between Ryan Hardy and Joe Carroll.  It’s ceiling is not Breaking Bad or The Shield, but instead a post Bush administration version of 24 in which Ryan Hardy’s Jack Bauer (and “Greatest American Hero” as dim-witted prison guard so maniacally sang for us) has a nemesis that is less about destroying the world and more about destroying Hardy’s world.

Jack Bauer from 24What made 24 so successful for so long (Kim Bauer and cougar battles aside) was the understanding that Jack Bauer’s tribulations through each “bad day” were going to be inherently compelling, but had to be relentlessly suspenseful.  We were going to go down all of those (often unrealistic roads) because Jack was our guy and we inevitably wanted him to succeed amidst all that adversity.  If The Following keeps the gas and the focus on “torment Ryan Hardy machine” and maintains its already somewhat successful serialized pacing, there may just be something here.  When Annie Parisse interviews Carroll, he turns to the camera (and Ryan Hardy’s audience on the other side) and says, “It must be very hard for you to be surrounded by the stench of death again.  I know this takes a terrible tole on you.  You must be careful.  What, with that little heart of yours.”  Yes, The Following writers!  This is what I am talking about!  Everything that Joe Carroll is doing is meant to destroy the already “drinking alcohol out of water bottles” Ryan Hardy.  Hardy recognizes that Carroll is “bating [him]” and that he “should have seen it coming.”  Even minion of the week and fire obsessed Rick wants to “tell Ryan it was all for him.”  In a final stroke of “nail the point home” clarity, Joey’s email video to mom ends with a smiling and waving to Ryan.

This narrative path with Ryan Hardy as the ultimate fooled follower who “knows what [Carroll’s] followers feel” may be Fox’s ticket to success.  Monday’s at 9:00 PM (24, House) have been a traditional Fox winter haven, and The Following may have, in its third week, found a formula for a meaningful future.

What do you all think?  Can The Following be a 24 incarnate?  Is Jordy going to be missed?  Why does the kidnapping subplot irritate us all so much?

David Bloom can be reached on twitter at @davidbloom7.  His other pop culture writing can be found on Bishop and Company (