Thoughts on the new GOTHAM trailer

It has been a fair assumption from the beginning of its inception that a network television show set in the city of Batman would go to series. Yesterday this foregone conclusion became a reality. As a further mark of Fox’s investment in this destined ratings hit, they debuted the first extended trailer for Gotham during the long-awaited season premiere of 24: Live Another Day. I caught it later in the evening on YouTube and have since watched it several times with evolving opinions and reactions meandering through a debris field of nostalgic wonderment, emotional bias, and objective critique. Watch here:

My first viewing “blink” was somewhere in the neighborhood of “Is this real life or am I dreaming?” and giddy excitement. As a dedicated fan of Batman and his environs since before I could read (Batman is on my personal Mount Rushmore of pop cultural royalty), each new telling of any aspect of the Gotham story is met with a high degree of passionate anticipation. This series (although not a revelatory concept, I sketched out my own version of Gotham centered on the GCPD with my neighborhood Batman fan club chapter in middle school) focuses on the world of Gotham before a young man was forced to dress up in a cape and cowl and the trailer lets you in on many of the key players. The foreboding music and tone feel like remnants of the Caped Crusader world that Christopher Nolan built (this is only a good thing). Ben McKenzie’s brooding and mostly silent (at least in the trailer edit) Detective Jim Gordon is the story’s protagonist and from the trailer, I am ready to ride shotgun in his squad car. It appears as though showrunners have chosen to make Donal Logue’s Harvey Bullock more Andy Sipowicz from NYPD Blue (tough love mentor) than Bunk Moreland from The Wire (sloppy and soulful drunk) and I am fine with this. I am not sure what to do yet with Jada Pinkett Smith’s big bad boss, but she does seem primed to give a most hammy and villainous performance. The Wire’s John Doman’s unexpected involvement (unlisted on IMDB) was a welcome treat. Production and direction value (and I recognize that this is all footage from a higher pilot budget) seem to be at the highest level of network television capability (not every series can be as gorgeous to look at as Game of Thrones).

There is just so much wonderful here that it took a closer look to figure out what seems slightly off. Although I recognize the value of exploring the young Bruce Wayne’s ascension to masked vigilante and at least the immediate impact that his parent’s murder had on the psyche of the urban community, I am not sure there was a worthy purpose to so overtly backstory all of these villains. In all of my Batman following years, the only villain that intrigued at this expositional level was the Joker (and he seems that he is being intentionally saved for later season February sweeps). Everyone else was created as reaction to Batman’s existence and only live in the Gotham world because of the stakes that Batman has so dramatically raised. Why not eliminate this element and tell a gritty drama of urban decay rather than a overwrought and repetitive comic book origin story? I remain the ever hopeful and will graciously add Gotham to the top of my DVR queue in the fall, but at least part of this diehard wishes that my beloved character’s world was to be told with a slightly different storytelling palette.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver has something to say

Last night marked the second outing of the new HBO comedy/social commentary/fake news program satire of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Certainly and obviously a branch off of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart tree (even more so than the more straight satire of the character starring in The Colbert Report), its half-hour format without commercials has admittedly on occasion had me checking the clock, but it also affords him segments like the clip imbedded below – the almost thirteen minute unleash of a full-formed opinion on the horrors of the death penalty. As Bill Maher’s final “new rule” on each episode of Real Time has shown us, this type of elongated editorial can have an elongated impact. John Oliver has always been undeniably witty and hilarious, but if this type of truth-telling can become a staple of his new platform, there will be weeks of tonights ahead of him on HBO.

The Challenge: Free Agents Episode 4 – A Good Old-Fashioned Recap

“This is an individual game. This is not a team game.” – Johnny Bananas

As prolific playwrights, screenwriters, and Greek literature revolutionaries have done before them, The Challenge producers are active employers of dramatic structure. Each episode begins with some simple exposition, often foreshadowing the climactic conflict later in the episode. This week’s expositional section of “Inadequate” begins at a Uruguayan pool party. Preston takes this opportunity to work on fine-tuning his swimming strokes and shirtless modeling skills. Camila sees it as an opportunity to improve upon both her cocktail creation and consumption abilities. LaToya, the little verbal engine that could not be denied in week 1’s elimination against Jemmye, gets that some of the social pleasantries mask the bigger competitive picture. “With the game being Free Agents, everybody that you call your friend are really not your friends and deep down inside they are actually gunning for you.” The first foreshadowing seed of exposition is planted!

In other expositional intel, Aneesa is not feeling the “overachieving, showboating, I’m better than you” romantic alliance between Jordan and Laurel. She shares with Theresa and Zach that she would prefer that Jordan and Laurel take their apparently hilarious sexual activity (there was laughter!) out of her bedroom. Aneesa just dropped the second seed of expositional foreshadowing and this tree of drama could grow personal.Jordan and Laurel

This week’s challenge is called “Bounce Out,” a game in the vein of soccer or hockey in which the goal is to score goals (the first team to score three wins), except each player will be wearing a giant plastic bubble of his or her face that according Zach makes him look like a “fat girl.” What is going on right now indeedJonna. There will be two lines for each team (cleverly titled Group A and Group B) and within each line one player will be the ball and the other players will then be strategically on offense, defense, or a little bit of both. “So basically we just have to get inside these gigantic gerbil balls and bounce each other all around.” Pretty much, Laurel. Johnny in a bubble

Poetically and finally deserving of the responsibility of the position, Johnny Bananas and Cara Maria are chosen as team captains. Let us see how these two veteran veterans do with their selections!


1) Team Bananas – LAUREL

2) Team Cara – ZACH

3) Team Bananas – CT

4) Team Cara – CAMILA

5) Team Bananas – THERESA

6) Team Cara – ISAAC

7) Team Bananas – JORDAN

8) Team Cara – ANEESA

9) Team Bananas – NANY

10) Team Cara – LEROY

11) Team Bananas – JOHNNY

12) Team Cara – DEVYN

13) Team Bananas – JESSICA

14) Team Cara – BRANDON

15) Team Bananas – SWIFT

16) Team Cara – LATOYA

17) Team Bananas – JONNA

18) Team Cara – COHUTTA

19) Team Bananas – PRESTON (by default)

20) Team Cara – JASMINE (by default)Jasmine

Final Team Bananas: Men – Bananas, CT, Jordan, Swift, Preston; Women  – Laurel, Theresa, Nany, Jessica, Jonna

Final Team Cara: Men – Zach, Isaac, Leroy, Brandon, Cohutta; Women – Cara Maria, Camila, Aneesa, Devyn, LaToya, Jasmine

Although Cara makes strong picks for her first guy and girl (in a physical challenge like this, you want to have Zach’s Thor-like frame on your side), Bananas team has the clear advantage on paper. If we use last week’s power rankings as the only barometer, Bananas’ guys are ranked 1, 3, 4, 8, 10 and girls are ranked 1, 3, 5, 8, 11. Cara’s guys are ranked 2, 5, 6, 7, 11 and girls are ranked 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10. Some additional things to note about these numbers: although Cara’s last guy chosen was Cohutta (ranked no. 2 going into episode 4), his size is a distinctive disadvantage in this challenge (Jasmine, ranked no.7, was not chosen for the same reasons). If you add up all of the number rankings of each team with the lower number having the better team, Johnny’s guys sum to a 26 and girls to a 28 (total of 54). Cara’s guys add up to a 31 and girls add up to a 38 (total of 69). If the numbers indicate a clear advantage, then the eye test does even more so. How can a team of Bananas, Laurel, CT, Jordan, Nany, and Jessica possibly lose?

Back to the “Bounce Out” event, Bananas creates his groups. Group A will feature Swift, Jonna, Jessica, Theresa, and CT with Bananas himself as the ball. Group B will include Preston, Laurel, Nany, and Johnny with Jordan as the ball. Theresa correctly notes that the two balls, Bananas and Jordan, are “both really agile, both really quick, and smart players.” Cara’s Group A will be Camila, Aneesa, Cara Maria, Cohutta, and Jasmine with Zach as the ball. Her Group B will be LaToya, Brandon, Leroy, and Devyn with Isaac as the ball. Again, advantage all around to Team Bananas. Zach hopes that because Isaac is a “crazy white boy” he will be “good at running and hitting people” because, employing the theory of the Artist Formally Known as Ron Artest, “sometimes being crazy is better than being prepared.” Jessica’s strategy is just to “not die.” Cohutta is concerned about Johnny and CT, but feels good that on his side they have “Zach, and Zach, and pretty much Zach.”

Round 1 begins with Zach, “aka Conan, aka Thor, aka Goliath,” bouncing through much of the Team Bananas defensive unit. Meanwhile, Bananas, a “sneaky little guy,” darts around, plows through Aneesa, and then, like a “Mack truck,” crushes Cara Maria’s “little deer” en route to his team’s first goal. Team Bananas – 1. Team Cara – 0. In the least surprising moment of the episode, Camila and Zach have a adrenaline-laden, shouting blame-off after the initial defeat.Bounce ItRound 2 is the stalest of mates for a while. Jordan’s ball is up against three able defenders at the visiting team net. Laurel and Nany’s intended “let’s f—in annihilate him” strategy toward Isaac seems to be working wonders, although Zach contends that Isaac seems to be “jogging on a run” and calls his performance “pathetic.” All of this changes when Johnny (of Bridgewater) instructs Preston to “go help Jordan.” Preston, oft picked last and oft overlooked (did anyone see his swimming prowess at the pool party?), comes to the rescue (cue triumphant sports music!) and wills Jordan into the net for a Team Bananas second goal. Preston’s post game interview says it all: “I just got there and put all my gusto into it and got Jordan into that net. I’m always picked last, but people should realize at this point whichever team I’m picked last for is usually the team that wins.” My preseason “Break Out” predictions for Preston and Jessica continue to gain momentum (I like to forget how I chose fondly departed Jemmye for this season’s “The Leap.” Maybe I was referring to a leap back to the United States? Nope, no I wasn’t.). Team Bananas – 2. Team Cara Maria – 0.

With some defensive improvement from the back line of Team Cara (Jordan misogynistic contention about the performance of Bananas is hereby ignored), Zach is able to force his dynamic physical presence to a goal in Round 3 against the Team Bananas defense. Team Bananas – 2. Team Cara Maria – 1. After receiving some strategic advice from Camila (“get up, step backwards”), Isaac puts the round 4 stakes in perspective: “They only need one more point to win. We need two. It’s all up to me, and our game plan is do exactly what we did last time. (sarcastic pause of doubt) We’ll see.”

Team Bananas continues to pound Preston against the defensive wall in Round 4. Isaac decides to mix it up strategically by using both The Challenge wall and TJ Lavin the Great as “picks” (this, expectedly, works horrifically). Jordan scores, Preston wins the group’s unofficial MVP vote (Swift, while talking about it so passionately in his interview, starts “boppin” until his chair falls over! This is high unintentional comedy.), and Zach will do whatever it takes to avoid Isaac as a future teammate in Uruguay (we are a long time away from random wikipedia lemon facts). Team Bananas – 3. Team Cara Maria – 1. For the fourth time this season, Bananas, Preston, Laurel, Nany, and Jessica have avoided a potential vote or draw situation. For the fourth time this season, Cara Maria has not.

On the post challenge night, there is immediate strategic talk. CT, Swift, and Preston are riding on Leroy for his lackluster defensive showing. Leroy graciously takes the joke, but is concerned that it may be his time. A pillow talk between Real World: Portland cast members and Laurel reveals her intention to vote for Aneesa (the seeds of exposition are flowering!). Laurel pleads with her whisper party not to share intel. The next morning, Jessica, attempting a “I won’t vote for you if you don’t vote for me” move with Aneesa, reveals that there is talk about Aneesa as an elimination candidate. Aneesa takes this to Jordan who denies his “friend’s” involvement, but learns from Aneesa that this all came from a conversation with Jess (no matter how naively benign it might have been). The possibility of a winning team deliberation confrontation is at an all-time high.

At the deliberation, talk about potential men remains inconclusive and Johnny Bananas and Nany remind everyone that this is part of the game. When Jonna tries to take the “someone else can talk first” route about the girls, Jordan calls her out (“you gotta have a voice at some point”) by comparing her to “Jessica.” It’s on. Jessica: “Jordan may be able to bully other people, but honey, you’ve got the wrong girl.” After Jordan yells and confront her with his belief that Jessica has been carried up until this point, she promptly calls him out (Princess Hulk angry!) for his lackluster performance in the log challenge (totally fair) and for being afraid of feeling “inadequate” (this episode title alert knows where to hit him!). Personal buttons have been pushed (Real World: Portland baggage continues to be in play) and Jessica walks out of the room.

Bananas continues his role as sagacious lion to Jessica’s young cub and advises her to “let it go,” but privately is concerned about Jordan’s treatment of a woman. Back in Jordan’s camp of sympathy, there is negativity toward Bananas for his lack of viable allies on this season and for Jessica for “doing nothing.” Some battle lines for later in the season (if the season preview is any indication) have been formally drawn.

Laurel and JonnaThe voting process is all kinds of messy. Even before TJ Lavin the Great (still recovering from being inadvertently – or was it? –  “smoked” by Isaac in the challenge), Laurel’s tribal council whispers to her most spineless teammates (Jonna and Swift) rub Aneesa the wrongest of ways. (The flowers of exposition have reached a full bloom!). Aneesa calls BS on the first three votes against her (Nany, Swift, and Laurel) and TJ Lavin the Great asks her why (regrettably). After Aneesa spews jargon about whispering and bullying (Opinion – She is totally overreacting in her desire to have justified reasons for voting for her. Laurel wants her gone and convinced others to do the same. Period.). TJ Lavin the Great is forced to cut this Aneesa and Laurel fight off (“All right girls! That’s it. Enough is enough.”) before greater escalation or before Aneesa embarrasses herself any more out of entitled veteran fear. The eventual vote is a tie between Aneesa and LaToya (They each got four votes. Jasmine received the other three and is understandably upset that both of her rival partners, Jonna and Theresa, voted for her. This really is an individual game, Jaz.). TJ Lavin the Great calls for a re-vote with only Aneesa and LaToya eligible. After five votes for Aneesa (she flips some literal and figurative birds to Laurel and Jessica along the way) and five votes for LaToya, it all comes down to CT’s final voteWithout flinching, The Challenge greybeard votes for LaToya and Aneesa relieved, talks about the dilapidated karma of Laurel.

The men vote begins with little fanfare until Jordan indicates why his vote is for Leroy: “Man, this dudes a good competitor. It sucks that these are the guys we had to choose from.” LaToya, from her perch next to TJ Lavin the Great as the chosen girl for elimination, takes open offense and begins the following exchange:

LaToya: “Guess we ain’t votin’ based on performance no more.”

Jordan: “Yours was.”

LaToya: “Shut the f— up and keep your ass on the other end of the couch. You are a fake motherf—–. You walk in and out of my room smiling and saying s—. When you grow up, grow some balls, and keep it real, then you can say something. Right now, don’t say s— to me. Zip it up, motherf—–. I could whip your ass and not give two s—- about it…we can proceed TJ. I do apologize for the interruption.”

LaToya and JordanShots officially and hilariously fired. (Brandon is voted in for the guys, receiving four votes. The only drama here is that his buddy Swift went with what he perceived to be popular sentiment instead of having the back of his buddy. Brandon, you know Swift isn’t really sure how to play this game, right? Swift is regretful.) LaToya is still hot back at the house and goes at Jordan one more time. Laurel, coming to his defense, tries to reason with LaToya and Jessica and indicates that there are many sides to the story. LaToya respects Laurel’s position as “his woman,” but wants her to see how Jordan is not always as kind as he could be. Let us all water this second expositional seed!

It’s draw time, or is Cara Maria and Frank like to call it, hell. This time Zach is the unlucky recipient of bad luck and Brandon is the unlucky recipient of Zach’s bad luck because he has to face Zach in an elimination. ZachAs these things tend to go, Cara Maria is back for another elimination (“Of course, why not? Me. Again).Cara Maria

Tonight’s elimination is called “Oppenheimer” (as in Manhattan Project leader J. Robert? Let us hope there is no catastrophic nuclear radiation as a byproduct) in which our competitors run by each other in opposite directions in a circular cage to see who will be the first person to ring a bell. If it sounds that simple, it is that simple. The first to two bell rings wins. Production probably thought there would be more potential for a mid cage collision, but instead there is just a lot of sprinting. Just like that, Cara Maria wins the first two heats and eliminates LaToya from the competition. LaToya and CaraAfter last week’s time-consuming and endurance-testing elimination, Cara deserves this far more forgiving battle round. A stats wiz on her own right, Cara has now been in twelve eliminations in seven seasons and acknowledges that distance from eliminations does not make the prospect of winning grow stronger. Instead, it just increases anticipation and fear. TJ Lavin the Great astutely tells Cara Maria that she is “amazing.” LaToya makes quite the first impression of her The Challenge career and sums it up perfectly: “I met a lot of nice people. I met a lot of bad people. But overall, a lot of people I’ll never forget and hopefully I will get a chance to see everybody again in the future.” We hope so too.

On to the men, despite Brandon’s football experience, Bananas predicts that this elimination is going to be Brandon’s “swan song.” In the first heat, Zach repeatedly tramples over Brandon before ringing his bell. Brandon recognizes the fallacy in his strategy. The second time around is just a footrace and Zach is stronger and faster. TJ Lavin the Great: “Brandon – this ends your time on Free Agents. I’ll see you in the future for sure. Take care, man.” Brandon is well-liked to the end and Swift knows he messed up.Brandon

To fulfill its dramatic structural obligation, the final scene of this week’s episode takes us back to the Laurel and Aneesa battle. Aneesa has a poolside chat with CT about Laurel and Jordan. Aneesa: “I promise you – every time I have the power to vote her in, I will do it. Over and over again.”

And there it is for this week. Next week’s episode promises more of the foreshadowed Jordan and Bananas collision. Ready we will be…

Stay tuned for the week 4 power rankings later in the week.

Billy on the Street: The Meryl-Go-Round!

Each time I think he cannot conceivably go any further, Billy Eichner reaches into his singular brand of pop-cultured referential comedy and redefines what is possible. I am not sure I have seen more effort put into an irreverent comedic sketch and the host/sportscaster announcing thereof. This is priceless humor, well-excuted direction (especially for Fuse!), and Billy on the Street at his absolute apex.

May we all get “More chicken for Tucci! More chicken for Tucci!” INCREDIBLE.

The Challenge Free Agents: Weekly Power Rankings – Week 3

The weekly power rankings are finally creeping toward a whiff of objectivity. Three weeks in, we have actual statistics to compare competitor performance. I have always reserved my subjective rights, but as this season continues to be thematically about chance (what were the odds that it would be Frank to have the alien viral infection?), facts must be used more. Without further ado, here are the Week 3 Power Rankings with some statistics included…

Week 3 Power Rankings


Eliminated – CHET (week 1), DUSTIN (week 2); Medical Disqualification – FRANK (week 3)

11) SWIFT (last week: 11)

Season stats: 1 win (team of 14), 2 safe draws, lots of “boppin”

10) JOHNNY (last week: 12)

Season stats: 1 win (team of 14), 1 safe draw, 1 elimination round that did not happen, 4 votes against him, low male stripper score

9) ISAAC (last week: 9)

Season stats: 0 wins, 3 safe draws, 1 vote against him, leading the group in the delivery of random Uruguayan facts found on wikipedia

8) PRESTON (last week: 8)

Season stats: 1 win (team of 14), running statistics are incomplete, 0 eliminations! he, Cohutta, and Bananas are the only three men who have not been potentially up for an elimination either through “The Draw” or a vote

7) BRANDON (last week: 10)

Season stats: 1 win (team of 4), 1 safe draw, 1 vote against him, highest “team captain selection” rating

6) ZACH (last week: 7)

Season stats: 0 wins, 1 safe draw, deceptively high “comedic interview” score

5) LEROY (last week: 6)

Season stats: 0 wins (strong second place finish week 2), 1 safe draw, 1 vote against him, women distraction level high

4) JORDAN (last week: 3)

Season stats: 1 win (team of 14), 1 safe draw (from a DQ), 1 instance of competition hubris that did not have positive results

3) CT (last week: 2)

Season stats: 1 team win (team of 14), 2 safe draws (1 from a poor team performance), current leader in “strongest beard” and “most money put on bar tab” rankings

2) COHUTTA (last week: 4)

Season stats: 2 wins (1 on team of 14 and 1 on team of 2!), 0 draws or eliminations, he, Bananas, and Preston are the only three men who have not been potentially up for an elimination either through “The Draw” or a vote, only male competitor to have a faux wedding planned for him, current leader for best metaphor (comparing Nany’s smell to “wild honeysuckle blossoms”

1) JOHNNY BANANAS (last week: 1)

Season stats: 2 wins (1 on a team of 14 and 1 on a team of 4), 0 draws or eliminations, he, Cohutta, and Preston are the only three men who have not been potentially up for an elimination either through “The Draw” or a vote, strongest score in “this is an individual game” awareness


Eliminated – JEMMYE (week 1), EMILEE (week 2), NIA (week 3)

11) JONNA (last week: 12)

Season stats: 0 wins, 2 safe draws, 1 elimination vote (a win against Emilee), 2 votes against her, frontrunner for most unexpected interview hairstyle

10) LaTOYA (last week: 9)

Season stats: 0 wins, 1 elimination (a win against Jemmye), 11 votes against her, many opportunities of showing what she is all about, highest position in the “a vote for me may come back to haunt you” rankings

9) DEVYN (last week: 10)

Season stats: 1 win (team of 14), 0 draws (1 of 4 women who have not been potentially up for an elimination either through “The Draw” or a vote), 1 vote against her, high score in “most welcome return” competitor rankings

8) THERESA (last week: 8)

Season stats: 0 wins, 2 safe draws, 1 vote against her, already the winner of the “most unexpected sneakily good baller” award and a contender for the “wow, she’s taller than I thought” award

7) JASMINE (last week: 6)

Season stats: 1 win (team of 14), 1 safe draw, running away with “Greatest Challenge house whore aspirations” rankings (Johnny is currently in a distant second place), one of three current competitors who has survived a Nia fight and lived to tell us about it (also Jordan and Johnny)

6) ANEESA (last week: 2)

Season stats: 1 win (team of 14), 1 safe draw, a substantive combination of veteran cred and angst

5) NANY (last week: 7)

Season stats: 1 win (team of 14), 0 draws (1 of 4 women who have not been potentially up for an elimination either through “The Draw” or a vote), tied with Camila for the lead in the “out of control nighttime extra-curricular activity” rankings, only female competitor to have a faux wedding planned for her

4) CAMILA (last week: 5)

Season stats: 1 win (team of 4), 1 safe draw, tied with Nany for the lead in the “out of control nighttime extra-curricular activity” rankings, tied with Laurel for “female competitor who is most highly regarded by the men in challenges” rankings, only competitor to organize a bachelorette party on this season

3) JESSICA (last week: 4)

Season stats: 2 wins (1 on a team of 14 and 1 on a team of 4 and a second place finish week 2), 0 draws (1 of 4 women who have not been potentially up for an elimination either through “The Draw” or a vote), competitor this season who has seen the greatest “Q score” rise (EW? Yeah, she did), currently in the top 3 in the “could be a Marvel superhero” rankings (along with Jordan and Laurel)

2) CARA MARIA (last week: 3)

Season stats: 0 wins, 2 safe draws, 1 unsafe draw and elimination win (against Nia), ranked first in the “TJ Lavin the Great said incredible things about me” rankings and the “other competitors are finally showing me respect” rankings (Preston has his sights on this category, but can’t seem to crack into the top group)

1) LAUREL (last week: 1)

Season stats: 2 wins (1 on a team of 14 and 1 on a team of 2), 0 draws (1 of 4 women who have not been potentially up for an elimination either through “The Draw” or a vote), ranked 1st in all four power rankings this season, tied with Camila for “female competitor who is most highly regarded by the men in challenges” rankings, best “I don’t want to ever face her in an elimination” score of any of the women, ranked first as well in the “most loyal and supportive friend” rankings

“The Leftovers” first trailer – welcome back to TV Damon Lindelof

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):

There is just so much to like…

  • The use of James Blake’s soaring anthem “Retrograde” is tremendous.

  • Justin Theroux (Mr. Jennifer Aniston) has a Matthew Fox-like gravitas (before he got really angry and strange tattoos on Lost) as the lead character policeman guy.

  • The haunting beginning scene involving the ramifications of people disappearances (especially that beautiful baby Sam) feels eerily like the Lost pilot (this is a great thing).

  • I have never been one to judge, but Amy Brenneman’s white-dressed group plays like a neo-Others.

  • Other pilots “directed by Peter Berg?” Friday Night Lights.

  • Liv Tyler is back on television (it has been a long time since Aerosmith’s “Crazy” music video).

  • HBO allows for more realistic content (pay cable!) and if the trailer is any indication, Mr. Lindelof is taking appreciated advantage.

  • Shows are not often built on both a central mystery and a compelling ensemble of characters (they do not often get both right). The enthralling trailer seems to succeed at both.

Game of Thrones is holding strongly to my “Lost Favorite Current Television Show Championship Belt,” but the time has come for some competition. May it be The Leftovers. In Damon Lindelof we trust.

Who’s in “Star Wars: Episode VII?”

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 Worst: Donald Sterling racism is nothing new

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 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.

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