The Entertainment Weekly Fall Television Preview issue has traditionally been one of my most anticipated magazines of the year (since 1996!). Although increasingly less potent in recent years now that television has morphed into a twelve month release schedule, when my favorite television show debuted in 2004, it was everything.
There were many reasons why I chose to add Lost to my VCR recording schedule (it wasn’t that long ago) as informed by EW’s coverage – I had been an avid fan of one of JJ Abrams other properties (Alias) and was excited to see Terry O’Quinn on another series, I had a fondness for Matthew Fox from his Party of Five days, I had a fondness for Harold Perrineau from his Oz days, I loved the “plane crash on a deserted island” concept – but not one reason involved an excitement for a then relatively unknown (unless Nash Bridges was your jam) writer/producer named Damon Lindelof. This was soon to change. With JJ Abrams quickly venturing into other lens flaring projects, Lost quickly became the adored creative child of Lindelof and showrunner partner Carlton Cuse. Although not a flawless experience by any means (the entire Tailies subplot ended up being irrelevant, time travel gave the audience more headaches and nosebleeds than the characters experiencing it, that ending), Lost remains the most prolific and meaningful television journey I have taken to date and I have Lindelof and Cuse (with some Jack Bender stalwart direction) to thank for being such passionate, compassionate, and trusted storytellers.
After Lost closed its tale in 2010, Lindelof and Cuse both took a necessary break from television. Cuse came back last winter with Bates Motel (a show that has been sitting in my DVR queues for far too long – according to most critics, this is my loss). Lindelof dabbled with the screenwriting of classic properties (Prometheus and Star Trek Into Darkness) and of properties that no one was pining for (Cowboys and Aliens…oops.). At long last this summer, Lindelof returns to the medium that made him a star as the co-showrunner of “a new dramatic series” from HBO, The Leftovers. Based on Tom Perotta’s book (Perotta will be the other showrunner) about a mysterious rapture-like event and how it affects the suburban community of Mapleton. If Bo knows and TNT knows drama, HBO knows (among other things) how to craft a scintillating trailer. Behold the first full-length trailer for The Leftovers (debuting June 29):
Finally…finally the principal members of Star Wars: Episode VII have been announced. Beyond the returning stalwarts from Episodes IV-VI, we don’t yet know what characters the new people are playing, but after years of speculation, any intel out of J.J. Abrams camp is a good thing. May the internet snarky opinion bonanza begin!
The firestorm of media coverage since TMZ first “reported” the audio recording of (allegedly) Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his “mistress” V. Stiviano is justified. Despite any recording tomfoolery that may have taken place (there are many layers of shade here), Donald Sterling’s racist comments are undeniably appalling and disturbing. When Adam Silver delivers the potential nuclear option (a provision in the bylaws that allows for the full rescinding of ownership) later this afternoon as many suggest he will, I will support the decision. What makes this all the more troubling is that Donald Sterling’s racism has been reeking havoc in the Clippers organization and throughout his real estate endeavors for decades and until now, little has been done about it.
Bomani Jones wrote a piece for Page 2 of espn.com titled “Donald Sterling’s racism should be news” back in 2006 and talks about it on yesterday’s Dan Le Batard Show (a worthiest listen). This stuff has been going on for years, so although I appreciate the current outpouring of righteous denouncement, we all must ask ourselves why it is this new recording (potentially part of a extortion plot) and not all of the awful things this man has done before that has inspired such outrage. As a lifelong committed NBA fan, I have always known that Donald Sterling was both a horrific owner and an awful human being. It is hard to imagine that an NBA-lifer like Doc Rivers is just finding out about his owner’s deplorable nature now. Racism coalesces next to our complacency, so we must continue to consciously converse on these subjects in all arenas of our lives. Something has got to change and I wish that it took something other than a sketchy TMZ recording to do so.
Donald Sterling – I hope today is your last day as an owner of an NBA team. You are not welcome in my beloved NBA. Good riddance. Your expulsion has been a long time coming.
UPDATE as of 3:43 PM – Adam Silver initiated the unprecedented nuclear option. Donald Sterling has been banned for life from the NBA and has been fined $2.5 million. Sterling is not allowed “to attend any NBA games or practices, be present at any Clippers office or facility, or participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team.” Sterling also will be barred from attending any Board of Governors meetings and participating in any other league activity. It will then take 75 percent of the owners to force Sterling to sell. Silver is confident that he will get the votes.
Steven Spielberg’s next directing gig has been announced as Roald Dahl’s children’s novel, The BFG. This story about a “Big, Friendly Giant” was one of the few Roald Dahl stories that did not espouse immediate nightmares (the 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory remains the scariest movie I have ever seen). Steven Spielberg directing a beloved children’s novel? Yes, please.
If a picture says 1000 words, then 17 pictures say 1936 words. Here is an annual The Challenge photo diary for episode 3 of Free Agents, “The Thumbsucker.”
Two things that are true of a Challenge house: there is much sexual tension (often realized) and there is a lot of time to kill. How did these two truisms collide in this week’s “The Thumbsucker'” (Nia gets her Challenge moment) third episode of Free Agents? Cohutta and Nany decide to “get married,” so there are some faux-Bachelor and Bachelorette parties to be had! Jasmine decisively beats out fervent competition for the role of female stripper at the Bachelor party.
Camila is the maid of honor, so you know there is going to be a level of crazy mixed into the festivities. Case in point: she hires Johnny of Bridgewater as her male stripper. After he pulls down his underwear (a common choice for Johnny while filming Bunim/Murray properties), he makes out with Nany (isn’t she supposed to be faithful to husband-to-be Cohutta?). How I yearn for the costume party of last week!
Having already defeated odds depressingly not in his favor through the first two eliminations, Frank’s body is violently attacking him from within, so he reached out to Mom for some help. Should he stay to compete? Her encouraging and sound advice: “Yes, you will get better eventually. But, will you be exhausted and able to play to your potential? Absolutely not, you won’t. Until you get better. If you think you can pull through, stay!” Frank’s mom can problem-solve effectively like her son! Frank admirably decides to stay (he’s just beasted through two possible eliminations in less than peak form, so gutting out some discomfort through the next few days is totally doable). Let’s hope the MTV producer early exit police do not randomly and deplorably intervene here as they have done in the past (an injustice twice befallen the undeserving and amazing Sarah Rice)…
Guys, TJ Lavin the Great has something very serious to talk about. “First things first…Frank, I’ve talked to the Challenge doctor, and they said that you have a viral infection. He said that you’re very contagious, so I can’t have you in the house. I got to let you go man. I’m sorry. This ends your time in Uruguay.” This is simply ridiculous. You’re telling me that a man who just fought through his viral infection (and on The Challenge, who doesn’t have a viral infection?) to win an elimination is too contagious for everyone else? Was quarantining him for a few days not an option? Who objects? Who is this Challenge doctor and why should we trust him? Does he also review some of the unsafe things that go on in challenges and during especially rowdy nighttime extracurricular activities or does he just stick to the contagious infections? Does Frank get any agency on this (the man is willing to fight through it!)? After the Sarah fiasco “send home” last season (not to mention the Sarah fiasco “send home” from Battle of the Exes), this kind of troublesome and inconsistent exiling seems to be just the way they operate. Frank you were grossly mistreated, deserved better, and will be missed. (The Frank karma/”what goes around comes around” segment during the after show was in embarrassingly poor taste).
The “Bar Crawl” challenge requires the meticulous movement of 2x4s followed by an intimate “hurry-up-and-wait” balancing act between teammates. CT and Cara’s team (along with “Boppin” Swift and Aneesa) go first and struggle with the “hurry” part of the challenge, failing to make it across the course in the allotted amount of time.
Johnny and Devyn’s team (along with Theresa and Zach) overcome a brief strategic misstep (amazingly Zach’s giant wingspan does not equal the more diminutive wingspan of Johnny) to finish the challenge. Of course Johnny has to make a comment about enjoying “going down on” Devyn’s “great ass” to move the planks.
With Frank sent home by the Challenge doctor,” the numbers for “Bar Crawl” don’t work out so well. There would have to be one team of three in a challenge meant for four. Jasmine, Jonna, and Jordan are given the option to sit out. In doing so, they would not be eligible for “The Draw,” but would be eligible for elimination nomination by the winning team. In a surprise that shocked no one that has ever participated or witnessed Jordan engage in athletic competition, they decide to compete. You could call it a little bit of over-confidence (I would argue the confidence has justification) and maybe a little bit of hubris (more likely), but Jordan is unable to execute flawlessly this time.
“But picking Jordan meant that we are supposed to win! How am I going to fully realize my Challenge House Whore aspirations?” – the thoughts in Jasmine’s head (just a guess)
The phrase “Team Brandon wins” is not often heard in TJ Lavin the Great’s announcement of winning challenge teams, but “obviously Brandon knows how to pick some partners.” Camila is thriving in this open Free Agents format and is an asset to all daytime challenge activities (nighttime extra-curricular activities remain another thing entirely). Jessica continues her assault on the competition and continues her consummate ceiling raising of fellow competitor expectations. At some point her schoolyard picking position (too low) will match her performance (after three weeks, the rise of Princess Hulk is no fluke). And then there is Johnny Bananas who lest we ever forget has had his historic The Challenge success because of his strategic mastery and his superior and dominant performances in challenges. Bananas and Cohutta are the only two guys who have not yet packed their bags (they have yet to see “The Draw” or have been chosen for an elimination. The women list? Laurel, Nany, Jessica, and Devyn).
The functionality of this group deliberation is refreshing. There is immediate rationality to a guy vote for Johnny (of Bridgewater). Camila wants to interview some of the potential women before making her decision and all are comfortable with this. Johnny Bananas, bobble-head in hand, presides over the team like a sagacious king lion.
There are some great photos from this week’s episode, but this one (along with the cover photo described later in the column) seems to carry a little more weight. Jessica tells Brandon and Camila that she too has some women to talk with to help her make her decision, but first she goes to Johnny Bananas for guidance. This is a classic conversation for the ages between the wisest of the wise veterans and the most earnest and dynamic of the new crop of competitors who seems to have a whole lot of “it” and may just be on the cusp of realizing her full potential in The Challenge. What’s notable about the content of their conversation is that Jessica knows what to do going in (This is Free Agents. Vote with your gut and don’t be swayed by pressure from others), but gains some confidence and benefits from Johnny’s encouragement and validation. This kind of mentorship and experiential torch passing, in the mold of David Robinson to a young Tim Duncan or Kareem to a young Magic, is one of the most rewarding aspects of a long committed fandom to a professional sport. I am hopeful and optimistic that there will be more iterations of this compelling relationship deep into The Challenge: Free Agents.
The “Challenge” doctor continues to haunt the proceedings of this episode, this time in “The Draw.” Johnny of Bridgewater will be saved from facing an elimination if the kill card is not selected. By the time Jordan steps up to pick (CT and Swift already picked safe cards), he has a 50% chance of picking the kill card. Reacquiring a little bit of that special sauce that he seems to always have when he competes, Jordan avoids the kill and saves his Portland buddy in the process. After a disappointing week of competition, Jordan is grateful to be coming back next week largely unscathed.
After two weeks of elimination avoidance, “The Draw” finally catches up to her. Her face says everything.
The elimination game, “Looper,” may not have Joseph Gord0n-Leavitt or Bruce Willis starring in it, but it is as every bit a strain on your mind. A tug of war from hell, Nia and Cara attached by ropes are literally fighting against one another’s fortitude, strength, and endurance to reach a distant bell on other end of the sand pit.
As the MTV after show revealed (hosted expectedly poorly by Jonny Moseley who should never again be put in a situation in which a physical altercation may occur), Nia faced serious injury coming out of this elimination. The dramatized epic footage was the real deal. I give her a lot of credit for her fight in the elimination, but after a storming through the Bunim/Murray world on The Real World: Portland, the hurricane in Uruguay was grossly underwhelming.
After six seasons, two finals appearances, and a fair amount of success throughout her career, Cara Maria still seems to be fighting to be respected (let alone liked). This time, after seventy-five minutes of a grueling stalemate with the artist formally known as Hurricane Nia, Cara Maria, inspired by present tense Johnny Bananas digs and years of put-downs, decides she has had enough. Fighting through the agonizing pain, Cara wills herself and her thirty pound lighter frame to ring that bell (and so endearingly again and again after she has already finished). The support of the crowd, loyally led by Laurel, is not lost on Cara, “This is the first challenge that I’ve ever had so much love behind me…it means so much to me.” There is praise, and then there is praise from TJ Lavin the Great who does not often share his personal power rankings so candidly, “Cara Maria – If I had to pick anyone to go against, you would be the last person I would choose, for sure. That was one hell of a performance.” Amen, TJ Lavin the Great. Amen.
Although they have always had their differences, Johnny Bananas knows when to take the foot out of his mouth and commendably congratulates Cara Maria on her incredible win. Cara thanks him for giving her the somewhat vitriolic fuel to motivate her. This is just so many levels of awesome.
Simply put (in a dramatic move away from normal verbosity), here are this week’s power rankings. For more analysis on last week’s episode, you can read here.
A couple of quick notes:
– Johnny Bananas moves up to no. 1 in the men rankings for the first time this season. All is right with the world again.
– I would have to investigate further, but I am not sure that Preston (no. 8) or Jasmine (no. 6) have ever ranked higher in my three season’s of doing power rankings.
– This week’s rankings are on a 1-12 scale, although I considered making the women on a 1-30 scale to create some separation between Laurel and the rest of the women (there should be a chasm).
– Camila and Nany both took a little dip because of their nighttime extra-curricular activity blowout fight. This was inevitable.
– I am struggling to figure out what to do with the men ranked 4-7. They are really strong and the exact order could really go in any direction. I tried to reward Cohutta and Leroy for their dominant performances in the challenge, but is hard to discount Frank’s elimination win and Zach’s already underrated interview performance in the first two episodes.
To my few loyal readers who may not be as interested in the minutia and the “inside the competitor’s studio” unrelenting coverage of all things The Challenge, do not fear: my pop culture and sports identity has not lost its mojo (a fair presumption). The reality of covering the “Fifth Major American Professional Sport” (that also happens to be a TV show) full-time is that other writing takes a little bit of a backseat. With so much going on (NBA Playoffs! Game of Thrones! Colbert taking over Late Night! The remarkable cultural ascendancy of Billy on the Street!), I thought I could at least send you to the right places.
Without further ado, let us get a few links off my chest…
I am not sure I would call this the “greatest shot in playoff history” as some have suggested…
Is that the greatest shot you have ever seen? Seriously
For the record, this remains my favorite playoff basketball play that I ever seen (you are really watching what greatness is all about)…
Speaking of Larry Legend, Jalen and Bill have an interesting chat about LeBron’s place in the “greatest forward of all-time conversation…
They both reluctantly argue (and subsequently mourn) that if LeBron wins his third championship this season, he passes Bird on the all-time forward list. I may not be there yet, but this is not an erroneous argument by any means. LeBron, beginning the playoffs in his eleventh season, is already right there. Incredible.
If Patrick Beverley had played in 1980s, he would have been a perfect insertion to the Pistons. I certainly loathed the “yellow, gutless way” they did things, but it is hard not have some respect for the Bad Boys of Detroit as a compelling and dynamic basketball team (I had forgotten how eloquent Isiah Thomas is and how bizarre Adrian Dantley seems to be).
There have been many great 30 for 30 documentaries, but I am not sure one resonated (or provided a greater opportunity to relive and reminisce) more than this one.
Thank goodness for Robert Parish’s revenge enactment (start at 0:17). Amazingly, he was not ejected. Respect.
That’s what you do, Paul Pierce. That’s why the Celtics miss you so much.
On to the other spectrum popular culture, Season 4 of Game of Thrones has already been responsible for its share of reactions (SPOILER ALERT!) and has further proved why Westeros is apparently the worst place to have a wedding. This week brought out some mixedopinions about the transfer of a book scene to television. I am still ruminating on the ramifications of the scene in question and as a television viewer first and foremost (I have only read the first book and aim to stay at least two books behind because I enjoy watching the television show too much), I will wait to see where Mr. Weiss and Benioff take me, but for now, if you are watching, read Andy Greenwald because he writes amazing things about an amazing television show.
My feeling after watching this video: I think we may be witnessing the birth of a political star…
The future of late night is bright with these two. John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight debuts Sunday night on HBO. I remember his final The Daily Show with a nostalgic fondness.
Speaking of Late Night television, I admittedly have never been a Letterman guy. This is entirely a byproduct of my age (too young), my sensibility (I appreciate a different type of comedic irreverence), and my late night habits during formative late night habit-forming years (I have been a loyal follower of The Daily Show, an affinity that first awakened to the brilliant laughter and learning combination in college). Notwithstanding, I get it. I get why and how Letterman inspired a generation and why he is justifiably a comedic and television legend. Bill Simmons carves out a beautiful piece of prose to put all in perspective. Stephen Colbert (a Daily Show disciple on his own right) is the worthiest of replacements and will add to the already thriving renaissance of the medium.
Yes, they may not be the most incredible pre-publicity images I have seen, but they are still images from Jurassic World!
Coldplay is making me very excited for their new album, Ghost Stories, out May 19-20. Every song they have put out thus far simultaneously sounds entirely unique and yet eerily connected to one another as if from some carefully constructed masterwork. The latest release (as a live BBC performance) of “Oceans” furthers this trend:
I have tried and failed to read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter follow up, The Casual Vacancy, four times now. The “right timing” stars have never aligned. Maybe this just announced HBO miniseries will quell the trend.
The Leftovers debuts this summer on HBO and has Damon Lindelof’s stamp written all over it. The long awaited return to television by The Lost showrunner presents something extraordinary.
Finally, two games in, and LaMarcus Aldridge’s 2014 postseason is OUT OF CONTROL. Whether the Blazers win the series or not (Houston is heading back to Portland down 2-0), Aldridge’s rise to one of the game’s elite players (and mid-range jumper master) has already happened.
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