Saturday, April 24, 2010

Today ... a little of this, and a little of that

It's Saturday ... and it's the day that I've officially decided will be the day where we write to the true definition of what "notes, quotes and anecdotes" means.

In other words, a little of this, a little of that, and a whole lot of idle chatter. We'll get heavy and/or topical Monday through Friday. Saturday is the day for leftovers. Oh ... and anything goes, too.

(Sunday is a day of rest).

Alrighty, then ...

I don't get the whole national obsession with the NFL draft. It's not that I'm disinterested in where the college players I've watched end up going, I just don't get the idea that it's reached the point where it's considered prime time viewing.

Really, where's the action? What's the point? Turn on ESPN, or the NFL channel, and all you see are people talking. Because that's all they can do. Each NFL team has a certain amount of time it can spend "on the clock," and in between there's nothing to do except talk, and show clips, and speculate, and -- for lack of a better term for it -- bore me to death.

And if Mel Kiper Jr. isn't the oddest looking guy on the planet, then he's in the Top Five. He looks like Beavis. Every time I see him talk, I want Todd McShay to look at him and say "settle down Beavis, or I'm going to have to smack you."

I also love the fact that the NFL tries so mightily hard to compare itself to the military at all times, especially during the draft, when the conference room in which discussions and evaluations are held becomes known as the "war room."

No it's not. It's a conference room with a bunch of people evaluating talent. These guys are Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell without the snark. The only difference is that they make their decisions in private, rather than in front of national TV audience.

But just the same, I'd love to hear Bill Belichick, someday, get up in front of his cadre of scouts and assistants and channel his inner Simon about some guy the Patriots are thinking about drafting.


Every now and then -- and most of the time, it's by accident -- you catch an offbeat film on cable at two o'clock in the morning. You catch them at that hour because that's the only time they ever get shown.

A few years back, unable to sleep, I caught one called "Lost and Delirious," which dealt with the girl-on-girl relationship between two boarding school students, how the whole thing became undone, and how it's demise affected one of the principals.

This may sound lurid, but it wasn't. It was actually a mature film in that it dealt with sexually controversial material without the gratuitous moments that would have otherwise turned the whole thing into a hardcore porn flick.

Another one, a bit more famous and mainstream, from the late nineties, was "American Beauty," which, again, took something that could have been just incredibly tacky and tawdry and turned it into a brooding metaphor for the type of emotional disconnect that can only happen when families become too "me-centered" and lose their sense of what unites them in the first place. Director Alan Ball seems to feel this condition is almost exclusively indigenous to wealthy suburbs, where emotional sterility is almost an epidemic at times.

("American Beauty" also, by the way, turned me onto one of my very favorite songs ... Annie Lennox's version of Neil Young's "Don't Let It Bring You Down.")

Last night, or should I say in the wee hours of this morning, I caught another Ball creation, "Towelhead." Outside of Toni Collette, I didn't know a soul who acted in this film. And like "American Beauty," "Towelhead" deals with topics that could have resulted in needlessly gratuitous footage and gives them a mature tilt.

The film deals with a Lebanese girl who is sexually mature (at least physically) for her age, and who draws the attention of both an African-American student at school and the man who lives next door. The girl is bewildered by the effect her "assets" seem to have on men, but at the same time intrigued by it as well.

However, she's naive, like any 13-year-old, and really not sure about what it all means. The neighbor successfully seduces her -- thankfully off-camera.

I haven't decided yet whether I liked the film or not. I don't think it's the type of film you can fall in love with. There's not a lot of warmth to it (except for Collette) and the world these people live in is very cold and disconnected.

Yet at the same time, it offers up some mature outlooks on the nature of temptation and its relationship to sexuality. Good people are incredibly flawed ... and bad people (like the neighbor) are painted in such a way that good traits aren't totally lost in the shuffle.

Suffice it to say, sometimes not being able to sleep in the wee hours of the morning can have its moments.


I've always been partial to crime shows on TV ... which is a good thing, since crime shows seem to be about the only drama left on TV.

But I'll take even a bad crime drama over the absolutely insipid nature of the rest of the menu. I never got into any of the reality TV stuff, couldn't care less who Donald Trump fires (or about The Donald himself, for that matter), hate "American Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars," and and happy to report that I've never watched an episode of "Survivor," and couldn't pick Kate or John out of a police lineup if you gave me all of The Donald's money.

With that in mind, I will rate them today.

Top on the list is still CSI: The Original. I thought this show would jump the shark when we lost Gil Grissom, but thanks to Laurence Fishburne (who is a very, very good actor) that hasn't happened.

When it was first reported that Fishburne would take over for William Peterson, I was talking to a much younger colleague at work, and quoted his climactic line from "Boyz in the Hood": "Give me the mother fucking gun, Trae."

The guy, only in his mid-20s, looked at me like, "what???" And he informed me that Fishburne's most noteworthy role came much later, in "The Matrix." I'm sure it did. But you can't deny that he -- and almost by himself, too -- turned "Boyz in the Hood" into a classic.

Anyway, Fishburne has added an element of class to CSI, while, at the same time, walking the incredibly difficult line of blending in with a cast that has nowhere near the star power he has. He has done this well. And the show has taken off, as far as I'm concerned.

As it was, CSI already had its share of quirky characters -- not all of them likeable (hello, Hodges) -- that make for good drama.

Next on the list is "Cold Case." I like the premise of solving an old, heretofore unsolved, case every week, and the cast works well together.

Third is "The Mentalist," which features Simon Baker as an insufferable profiler who -- despite the fact he goes out of his way to piss people off (and, indeed, can do it even when he's not trying) -- manages to get it right ... and solve the case ... every week.

Which, of course, pisses people off even more.

He's probably a lot like "Quincy," the Jack Klugman coroner from the 1970s, I suppose, but Baker is must smarmy enough to put a new twist on it.

Fourth on the list is "CSI: New York." This is mainly because I've never seen Gary Sinese in anything where he hasn't been first rate (Lieutenant Dayan!). It also has the "all-names" team when it comes to cast members. Wrap your tongue around Melina Kanakaredes and Carmine Giovinazzo if you doubt me.

Rounding out the Top Five is "Criminal Minds," another profiling show that sneaks into this hallowed territory solely because it is -- at the moment -- my son's favorite of them all.

CSI: Miami, which I still watch, gets more and more ridiculous by the minute. David Caruso's excessive preening can be really, really annoying; and some of the plot lines strain the bounds of credulity.

But if you're looking for the all-time all-time of crime/whodunit dramas, Perry Mason (the old ones, not the silly Fred Silverman resurrections of the 1970s and 80s) retires the trophy. Those old episodes still stand up today.

And besides, how can you argue with a show that, despite its gravitas, refused to take itself totally seriously that it named one of its principal characters "Hamilton Burger." That would be "Ham" for short.

With or without ketchup? And hold the pickles.


And in the words of our animated porcine friend from Warner Brothers, "th-th-th-th-th-that's all folks."

If you like this blog, please tell a friend and pass the word. Also, I would appreciate any input anyone wants to give me -- good and bad -- on the contents of these posts. Thank you very much.

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