Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Cop Out" opens this weekend

A new Kevin Smith movie opens this weekend, and while such an occasion excited me in the past, this time it's not such a big deal. Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan in a buddy cop comedy would have ruled 17 3/4 years ago (you have to respect my precision)...if it had Eddie Murphy instead of Morgan. And if it didn't have Seann William Scott at all. I'm not big on Scott today, so I doubt a 15-year-old version would score comedy points.

Besides, this isn't even marketed as "a Kevin Smith movie." Every ad I've seen conspicuously avoided mentioning him. Hmm. Plus, Smith didn't write this one, "only" directing it, so perhaps even HE doesn't consider it "a Kevin Smith movie." Why in the world when someone hire the guy to shoot someone else's script? You have a filmmaker whose shtick is about 45% self-deprecating humor about how crappy he is as a visual director. Someone gets a generic cop movie script and says, "You know who would bring a lot to the table on this? Kevin Smith!" It's interesting--not interesting in a makes me want to see it way, though.

Here's something else that doesn't make me want to see "Cop Out" (How can this title be available for major motion picture in 2010? This is as stunning a debut of a generic title as TNT's "Raising the Bar" a few years ago): An airline booting Smith off its craft for being too fat just weeks before the movie opens. This is the worst publicity stunt ever, as well as a sad indicator of where American culture is today. I miss the good old days when a director would drum up some pub by getting caught doing Bolivian marching powder with a tranny hooker (In fact, I miss the term "Bolivian marching powder").

"Cop Out" might be a good rental in 5 or 6 months, but it just isn't bringing it right now.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Terry O'Quinn ruined last week's "Lost" episode for me

OK, that headline is a bit of an exaggeration. He didn't exactly ruin it. Considering he is probably my favorite actor in the show, I shouldn't call him out like that, anyway. And it's tough for anyone or anything to ruin an episode of "Lost" since I consider myself a casual fan at this point and don't get too wrapped up in any of it. Besides, in a way, he actually made it the most enjoyable episode of the season for me.

So last week was a Locke episode, and that's usually a good thing for me, though my wife dislikes the character. O'Quinn made an odd choice, though, maybe 2/3 into the show, one which reduced me to a helpless giggle fit so overpowering Mrs. Shark not only had to stop the DVR, she had to consider administering CPR.

Locke was sitting in his wheelchair telling Peg Bundy--oops, sorry. It's Katey Sagal, and the Peg Bundy label is so damned unfair to everyone involved, but it's much more fun than calling her "Helen," and I may not be the only one who thinks that. In this intense scene, Locke told Helen he got fired that day. Only he didn't just say, "I got fired today, Helen." No, he did something different, telling her, "I got fired today, Alan."

At this point, I looked over at my wife and said, "Uh, did he just call her ALAN?" There is absolutely no reason he would. I really don't think he did. He was raising his voice a bit to get across his frustration, and the name came out sounding way different than it did before and after within that scene. But it sounded a hell of a lot like "Alan," and that's what I'm going with.

We backed it up and played it again. Mrs. Shark is used to me saying idiotic things when we're watching the idiot box, but I could tell that she knew I was on to something here. After all, she gave nary a protest when I asked her to replay that line. Sure enough, on a second watch, it held up. He called her "Alan!"

Something about this struck me as really, really funny. I began turning over the possibilities in my mind and wondering why the director would let that go, why the post-production team would leave it in, why nobody would just say, "Hey, you guys DO know Locke called Helen 'Alan' there, don't you?" I convinced myself it was another B.S. "clue," some key aspect of the larger puzzle that makes up the grand mosaic that is "Lost."

But mostly I just giggled. I tried to stifle my laughter as the show continued, but the absurdity of it all built up inside me like the tell-tale heart until finally I exploded. Mrs. Shark kindly attended to me--I believe her exact words were "What the hell is the matter with you?"--and I explained to her that I couldn't get past Locke calling Helen "Alan," and it was gonna bug me the rest of the episode.

She let me laugh myself out, and a few minutes later, she resumed the program. But I knew she didn't think I was totally crazy. She heard it, too, I tell you! And when we reached the end of the program, I wanted to think she was as unsatisfied as I.

"Don't delete it," I yelped as soon as the show ended. "You know what I want."

She glanced over at me but couldn't muster a proper full eye roll. She sympathized!

"You played it before. You can play it again. Play it."

I'm happy to say that I still heard ALAN on the third go-round. It was still funny, too. Is it funny now? Probably not to you. I admit it's becoming less so to me as the days go by. But somewhere inside me, I still believe that Terry O'Quinn not only called Katey Sagal's character "Alan," but he did so on purpose, and furthermore, everyone was cool with that.

I'm a casual fan of the show nowadays, someone who watches for goofy moments like this and doesn't care much about the so-called mythology. But I am issuing a challenge to all "Lost" fans who DO obsess over the details: Come up with a Grand Unified Theory of "Lost" that incorporates Locke calling Helen "Alan" into its awe-inspiring connectivity. You know, kind of like the old No-Prize system at Marvel Comics, where Stan Lee encouraged readers to come up with explanations as to why things that seemed like errors in the stories really weren't.

I'm talking to you, too, "Doc" Jensen of "Entertainment Weekly." Don't make my embarrassing breakdown go for naught. Prove me right. Ladies, you're welcome, too, but just don't make me call you...Alan.

(OK, it's still kinda funny for me.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Brooks on Books: "What Americans Really Want...Really" by Frank Luntz

What do I want...really? I want my mortgage paid off, I want a rocker recliner, I want an official complete series DVD set of "Sgt. Bilko," and I want the Pittsburgh Pirates to make the playoffs. Does Luntz address THESE wants? No.

Still, this is an entertaining book with valuable findings based on years of solid research, but I'm not sure it's 100% practical in everyday life for the average Joe. Luntz takes pains at the onset to explain why it IS, but after reading the thing, it seems much more valuable as a series of lessons for marketers, businesses, and politicians. Of course, if you are in one of those groups, then, hey, you're the kind of Joe this book targets.

For the rest of us, though, reading it is still a worthwhile experience. It's loaded with buzzwords and such, but with a no-BS approach. In other words, Luntz isn't trying to hoodwink us into following a given agenda, but is sharing what is important to Americans, why it is important, and what kind of language to use to convince them you agree. Through his years conducting polling and focus group sessions, Luntz has studied communication and words in great detail, and the emphasis of this work is on how to reach people by constructing messages that resonate with them.

And if you're worried that because Luntz works for the GOP, the book is gonna be some kind of conservative talking points recital, fear not. Luntz is up front about his beliefs, but he gives credit and assigns blame to both parties when he feels it's applicable. He is far from a far-right puppet, at least in this book, as his chapter on religion shows. He offers interesting thoughts on the subject, claiming that Americans should discuss it more because while they feel comfortable being spiritual and hearing people discuss that, they don't want to hear about other religions than their own. Luntz presents some data that indicate people with strong faith are happier and more productive, but he also offers his own experience at an early age that soured him on organized religion.

Nor is this veteran pollster a slave to Madison Avenue, as is evident in his response to a marketing guy who told him after reading an early version of this book that it was a waste time to devote a chapter to what old people really want because they have already made up their minds and are worthless to advertisers. Luntz calls him an idiot and details why advertisers should pay attention to this demographic. As someone who long ago soured on the notion of programming for "youth demographics," I thoroughly enjoyed that.

In the earliest portions of the book, I thought I was in for a slog of ad-guy-speak and shallow cliches. Fortunately, "What Americans Want" becomes more focused as it progresses, turning into a quality read with compelling insight into what people want and how they respond to messages.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

This Week in DVD

Small Wonder Season 1: There are TV shows we really want to see come to DVD, and there are shows we think we want to see on DVD. I think people today are more in love with the idea of "Small Wonder" than the artistic output of "Small Wonder," but, hey, it's good that those people can buy it. I have to admit a little part of me is curious to see what the show is like after 20-odd years. I am going to try to force that little part into a confined space I can lock up.

Law Abiding Citizen: Some might say that vigilante/revenge movies like this and, say, "Taken" resonate right now because of the helplessness many feel in the dire economy. I say people like to see stuff get blown up.

Black Dynamite: I'm looking forward to this little-seen but fondly received send-up of blaxploitation. I'm sick of The Man, too, and I don't mean the Eugene Levy-Sam Jackson bomb from a few years ago. Well, I'm a little sick of that one.

Barnaby Jones Season 1: George Utley must be ecstatic, assuming he finally upgraded from VHS.

Cannon Season 2: Volume 2: Clever move by Paramount getting this out this week, knowing the "Small Wonder" fans won't be able to resist Bill Conrad when they see him on the New Release shelf. I only fear for the shelf.

Branded the Complete Series: My dad tells me this is a great show, and I want to believe him, but I don't want to invest in a bunch of hacked-up episodes. Sadly, this Mill Creek collection is apparently just a rehash of the earlier problem-ridden set.

Good Hair: I love Chris Rock's comedy, but I can't say I'm eager to see a documentary about hair. There are probably other things I'd rather see him do, but I'll probably give this one a shot.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My wife reads People so you don't have to: Jen Aniston's Top 5 Moments

I'll spare you my rant about how overrated a celebrity Jennifer Aniston is, how she is disproportionately famous merely for having slept with Brad Pitt, etc. Instead, I'll give "People" the benefit of the doubt and presume it put her on its February 1 cover because it has new insight into that darned frustrating love life of hers, something a little more substantial than pointing out it's the fifth anniversary of when he dumped her.

Nah. I have to admit, I had no idea Laura Dern was "a trusted confidante." But the mag DOES offer a real treat: Jen's Top 5 Single Girl Moments." To wit:

1) FLAUNTING HER KILLER BODY: The "GQ" cover. Posing naked is, in this case, not demeaning or desperate, but the best revenge. I can never tell when it's OK for women to pose naked and when it isn't. I think all the women's mags should get together and establish some clear ground rules.

2) REBOUNDING PERFECTLY: Vince Vaughn was "the ideal fling" according to "People," which must make thousands of single women thankful the magazine doesn't operate a matchmaking service.

3) MAKING HIT MOVIES: Marley and Me was a hit, as the text reminds us. I guess "The Break-Up" was, too. OK, that's two, so I guess the S in "MOVIES" is justified.

4) DATING YOUNGER: As "People" cites, John Mayer and Bradley Cooper (and that, much like her fling with Gerard Butler, is of course in no way manufactured for publicity purposes, right?). Aniston is 41, and Cooper is 35. Whoo-hoo! You GO, girl! What a cradle robber!

5) TAKING DREAM VACATIONS: "She unwinds (and rocks a bikini) the way we all wish we could." Yep, I'm sure Brad Pitt has been eating his heart out every time he sees a shot on the beach while he's trapped in a dull existence with his unglamorous mate, a lifestyle that never sees them make headlines by traveling anywhere.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Wonderful World of TCM: Men Are Such Fools

Men ARE fools, you know--and scoundrels and knaves and suckers and all that, as well. But wimmen are fools, too, and Priscilla Lane's character provides ironclad evidence in this 1938 Warner Brothers picture directed by Busby Berkeley and featuring Humphrey Bogart in a supporting role. The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind aired this rarity as part of its Bogey festival in December, and while there isn't a whole lot of prime Bogart, there is a lot of entertainment value, what with all the boys and girls running around being foolish.

The highlight for me in "Fools," however, is one of the most romantic scenes in cinematic history, a scene which I regret seeing some years after I met, courted, and married the lovely Mrs. Shark. Wayne Morris, of all people--that's right, Wayne "Lunkhead" Morris--offers up the most enchanting proposal of matrimony in the annals of LIFE, not just the moving pictures.

But I'll get to that in a minute. First, let me talk about all the foolish behavior. Morris' character Jimmy Hall is a promising young (as young as Wayne Morris can ever be--to me the guy always looked like he was 35 or so when he was born and didn't bother changing) ad man when he meets Lane's Linda, a talented young copywriter. They get married partly because they're too jealous not to, but trouble brews when Jimmy tires of Linda's long hours and wants her to quit and be a good little wifey.

We see this situation many times in old movies and TV shows, of course--"No woman of mine will ever have to work in this household," etc.--but this case amuses because from all we know, Linda is the one with the talent. We see her working and exercising ambition, whereas we just kind of hear that Jimmy's got ad skills. Makes you wonder what's really going on when he pulls his "Me Mad Man, you Desperate Housewife" routine.

Well, Linda consents, but she gets ticked when Jimmy declines a plum job she helped set up for him. Now, here's where things get a little foolish on her part. She executes the ol' "Walk out on the hubby to get him to change his ways" routine, and that's silly enough, but she winds up taking her old job working for our man Bogart--the same guy who previously pulled the "Make a play for an attached woman" out of his playbook in an effort to snag Linda from Jimmy. Now, Priscilla Lane is luminous in this movie, but she loses me with this action. Bogart is not so much a fool in this story as a bona fide CAD, and he had gone so far as to deliberately keep Lane late at work one night so she would miss a date with Jimmy and his college chums (not to pick on Wayne Morris, but I have a hard time believing he went to Princeton, by the way) and undermine their marriage.

It's OK with Linda, though, who not only works with Bogey, but she romances him a little bit, too, or at least lets him romance her. This all ends in predictable fashion, with Jimmy stepping out a bit for a while with a suitor of his own before everyone comes to their senses. The only thing that surprises me is that Berkeley doesn't somehow manage to get an overhead shot of Bogart, Lane, Morris, and a chorus line dancing in a circle. But let me tell you, these people are such FOOLS.

You know what's not foolish, though? Making a romantic marriage proposal to a reluctant sweetie in such an extravagant manner that she can't possibly resist. Jimmy fakes us all out by feigning the old "Make love to her in the car" routine, then adds a glorious twist. He stops his automobile on a set of railroad tracks and announces he's not moving until she agrees to marry him.

Adding to the sentimental value of this priceless moment is the presence of an actual oncoming train. Oh, if I had only used this approach instead of the boring, old "Getting down on one knee" routine, the stories I'd have to tell my grandkids!

An exasperated Linda eventually relents just before the BrideKiller Express halts mere yards from the vehicle. She sort of gets mad when she realizes Jimmy knew all along the train was gonna stop there (see, this kind of proposal requires a lot more planning than just angling to get yourself on the stadium Jumbotron), and in response...he chuckles. Hey, she said she would marry him, and in the 1930s, that constitutes a binding verbal contract and cannot be broken. So what does he care if she sees his grand romantic gesture as foolish?

I realize Valentine's Day was a few days ago, but if any single readers are thinking of popping the question soon, here is your romantic masterstroke. All you need is a woman who isn't quick enough to get out of an open-top car, a reliable train with a consistent route, and of course the vehicle.

Oh, you'd better make it a reliable vehicle, too, because after Jimmy's stunt, another train zooms by and nearly dashes them both to bits before they can even do a cake tasting. That would be kind of a downer in the real world, I think, but since this is the movies, our Foolish but happy couple laughs it off and, for all we know, plans a cross-country rail trip for their honeymoon.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Disjointed thoughts about this weekend's new movies

Valentine's Day:

*I'm suspicious of movies built around a single holiday...unless it's Christmas, in which case I'm suspicious if it stars Tim Allen.

*I'm also suspicious of movies that apparently feature every star in Hollywood. This suspicion grows ever stronger when I don't hear much about such films until the week or two before they open.

*"Valentine's Day," therefore, is not on my must-see list, and I'm kind of hoping it fades away before my wife and I have our next dinner-and-a-movie date night. I don't know that she wants to see this, but you can't be too careful.

*Garry Marshall directing feature films: not so good. Garry Marshall giving amiable commentary tracks on "Odd Couple" episodes: very good (I really wish Paramount had enlisted his services for seasons 2-5).

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief:

*Is this really supposed to be a Winter Olympics tie-in? Then how come it's not on NBC?

*Some observers think this movie will make mythology like, all cool and stuff for kids. Or maybe the books have already done that. I don't know, but I'd rather see something that seems halfway fresh than that "Clash of the Titans" remake in the works.

*I realize "Harry Potter" wasn't necessarily the most dashing movie icon name before the movies proved to be smashes, but it's hard for me to envision a franchise built around a Percy.

The Wolfman:

*This one's been delayed so many times, I still don't believe it's actually in theaters. And I saw it on a marquee today, too.

*If nothing else, it gives Universal an excuse to release yet another DVD edition of the Lon Chaney version.

*Sir Anthony Hopkins has kept kind of a low profile lately, hasn't he?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Panel Discussion: Super careless?

It's a minor point in this panel from World's Finest #79, perhaps (reprinted in Showcase Presents: WF#1), especially compared to the awkward (redrawn?) Dick Sprang-drawn head on Supes, but couldn't the guy be a little less cavalier about discarding his civilian duds?

Unless he's using a super power of which I'm not aware to throw the clothes so that they'll land in a neat, undetectable, compressed pile--and I wouldn't be surprised to see this explained in a 1950s Superman story--it looks like Clark Kent's wardrobe is going to land on an unsuspecting passer-by somewhere on the streets of Metropolis.

This not only exposes Superman's secret identity, it exposes him to a lawsuit. Plus this story, "The Three Magicians of Baghdad," features the big guy traveling back in time a thousand years. Yet he can't spare a few seconds to fold and stash his clothes?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

This Week in DVD

We're still digging out from this past week's storms here at Cultureshark Tower, but I am resolved not to turn This Week in DVD into a long post bitching about the weather. So let's get right to it.

Couples Retreat: An inane-looking Vince Vaughn comedy about couples heading off to a vacation resort to have therapy or group sex or whatever. Hmm, must be nice going to a tropical climate. With no snow. I'm just saying.

The Stepfather: I'm sick and tired of all these horror remakes clogging theaters lately. Asking us to relive every mediocre scare flick of the last 3 decades is like--is like...Well, it's like asking me to shovel snow and ice 7 days in a row.

The Time Traveler's Wife: A lot of renters won't be able to see this Eric Bana/Rachel McAdams flick for Valentine's Day because it's a Warners title and therefore not available on Netflix or at Redbox for 28 days. By that time, incidentally, maybe all the snow in front of my car will be gone.

A Serious Man: Looks like another well-reviewed but (to many) inscrutable Coen brothers film. The brothers grapple with issues of faith in this one. I wonder if the lead character ever looks at the sky and wonders what kind of God would dump so much snow on one area.

My One and Only: Has anyone heard of this Renee Zellweger/Kevin Bacon movie before? Seriously, has she just been exiled to direct-to-video efforts lately? I mean, I've been snowed in for a while, but I didn't lose contact with the outside world when "Miss Potter" was released.

Bad Girls of Film Noir Volumes 1 & 2: These movies may not all be "noir"--most of them may not be, in fact--but is it really so bad if Sony wants to slap a label on its old movies to get them out there? Sit back and enjoy some old dramas, even if not all of the dames in these collections have hearts as cold as blizzard-like gusts during a snowstorm.

Ice Castles: A remake of the old figure skating romance. Sorry, I can't think of anything else to say about this one.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I'm still here

Apologies for the lack of posts this past week, but I'm gonna play the weather card here. Between working in anticipation of the storms in area, working during the storms in the area, and exhausting myself shoveling, I've neglected this blog, to be sure.

We're supposedly getting another storm tonight, and I am ready...for bed. The only way to amp the fun level of digging out during and after a blizzard is to have plows, neighbors, and nature conspire to surround your car with a wall of snow and ice. It was like my own little Fortress of Solitude out there. I was tempted to go out this morning, put a tape in the cassette deck, and wait for Jor-El to dispense wisdom about my future.

Instead, I shoveled and scraped for another hour and a half...and almost liberated my vehicle.

Hopefully I'll be back by the end of the week, assuming the power stays on. Stay warm, everybody!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My wife reads "People" so you don't have to: Heidi Montag's surgery obsession

First, let me assure you, dear readers, that Santa Claus renewed my wife's "People" subscription for another year, so as long as you check in here at regular intervals, you can till 2011 without actually reading the magazine. I just hope Santa went through a discounter; he could have saved a bundle by not going through the mag itself.

The January 25 issue features the headline "ADDICTED TO PLASTIC SURGERY" with a picture of the latest version of psuedo-celebrity Heidi Montag. Time to roll out the caveats here: I don't care about Heidi Montag, I think it's ridiculous "People" even gives her a front cover, and I think it's sad that Montag is so desperate for publicity she will reveal all this on the cover of a national publication.

Having said all that, as I look at the before and after (after 1o procedures in a single day, supposedly) pictures, a thought comes to mind. Ladies, you might want to check out here. The Alan Alda-type guys, too--stop back for my next post, "This Week in DVD."

OK, here goes. Heidi Montag, whoever she is--and she sure doesn't look like she used to--looks better than she did before. Am I crazy for saying that? I don't want to encourage excessive amounts of plastic surgery--I don't wish to encourage any cosmetic surgery, for that matter--but in this case, I kind of have to say well done. Whatever Beverly Hills Nip/Tucker put this together turned out an acceptable generic-looking Hollywood starlet.

The thing that gets me now, though, is the cover of the new "Life and Style" I saw at the grocery store on Monday. THIS magazine touts a story on Montag's "PLASTIC SURGERY NIGHTMARE!" Thus confuses me because, though I have not read the "People" article and will not in the future, the captions and pictures indicate she is pleased with her 10-in-1 tour de force.

Which magazine gets it right? Well, unfortunately for you, my wife does NOT read "Life and Style," so if you want to read it, you're gonna have to actually read it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Panel Discussion: Oops, honey, I just remembered, I left a vatful of bubbling chemicals back at the office

There is no "context" to this part of "When There Was NO Clark Kent!" in Superman #127 (as reprinted in Showcase Presents Superman Volume 1) that makes this plausible.

The standards at the Famous Bottle Works company in Metropolis make the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory look safe. When the factory shuts down at the end of the day and workers scramble to hit the road, they might forget their leftovers from lunch. They could neglect to fill out their timecards. Heck, I'm sure many of them leave their computers running.

But who in the HECK would leave a "vatful of chemicals" just "bubbling away" like that?

It will not surprise you to learn that in the next panel, the factory explodes. Yes, despite the discretion an intrepid employee in placing a "DANGER" sign next to the giant cup o' explosives, the darn thing blew up, anyway.

Luckily for Famous Bottle Works, Superman spends the rest of this story dealing with the "loss" of his secret identity in the explosion, and he never finds the time to investigate what could be a major corprorate insurance scam.

Hallmark Channel? Seriously, Hallmark Channel?

Last week, Hallmark Channel announced it essentially gave Martha Stewart the keys to the store (if it's a Hallmark Store, I wonder if she can pick me up a Valentine's Day card for my wife), devoting 2 1/2 hours each midday to her talk show as well as other programs produced by her media company. Stewart and Hallmark will be partners in other aspects of the channel as well.

Don't get me wrong here. I shed no tears for the loss of 2.5 hours of current Hallmark programming. This is a channel best known for recycling cheesy TV movies and bumping hacked-up versions of classic TV shows around its schedule.

No, what got me was reading this in an "L.A. Times" piece on the announcement:

For Hallmark, which has built a strong audience in the 25-54 demographic with its movies, landing Stewart is a high-profile move that it hopes will broaden its appeal. While the channel gets decent ratings, it is not as strong in urban and wealthy markets as it is elsewhere. Stewart caters to an upscale audience that the channel hopes will translate to stronger advertising dollars.

Though I'm glad anytime a cable channel professes to program for grownups, I have to say...Hallmark Channel? Even Hallmark Channel is chasing "upscale" audiences now? Some channels just shouldn't do that. I realize this entity long ago gave up most pretense of providing family entertainment for its own sake, but it's kind of ridiculous for the outlet that gave us umpteen "Love Comes Softly" films to start chasing "upscale" demos.

Oh, yeah, then there's the whole partnering with an ex-con thing. Look, I don't watch Hallmark Channel with rose-colored glasses--in fact, if my TV suddenly got stuck on it, I'd take my contacts out so I didn't have to watch it--but I hate to see yet another cable channel abandon its mission statement.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Entertainment Weekly: Nothing to see here, folks...

I actually anticipated an ish of "EW" for the first time in, oh, I don't know how many "Gossip Girl" seasons, when I saw a "humorous photo illustration of Jay Leno on the cover with a headline (Feel free to bark, "Headline!" right now in your best Leno voice) proclaiming TV's 50 biggest bombs inside. The mag defined "bomb" rather loosely to include poor decisions and other "what were they thinking?" moments as well as tanked shows, so it promised an entertaining article.

Well, as I should know by now, never trust a promise to be entertaining from "So-Called Entertainment Weekly, "or "Entertainment Weakly" as our friend Ivan would say.

Of course the article is a big letdown, but its weakness is amplified by the lateness of the issue. For some reason, my copy came 5 days late last week, building me up even more for the Cool Article That Isn't.

Oh, it provides a chuckle or two and isn't all that bad as EW goes these days. But what irks me is the magazine takes a premise rife with potential, hypes it on the cover, and delivers a feeble 6 pages, 2 of which show a big picture of Jay (this magazine loves big pictures nowadays) and a capsule summary of why the current NBC late-night debacle is the biggest bomb in TV history (which is in itself a debatable premise, but I won't even go there).

Bombs 2-25 are OK reading, predictably focused on the last 10-20 years or so (I do salute the inclusion of The Great One's notorious "You're in the Picture," one of several entries which proves some staffers who remember a pre-Simpsons media landscape still have some pull there), but they are all too brief. Notice I say "2-25." The second half of the list gets barely more than agate type at the end of the piece, thus ending the biggest disappointment the magazine has given me in months.

I won't say it was one of the biggest bombs, though, in recent memory, because the sad thing is I just don't expect much from "EW" anymore. It retains the capacity to disappoint me, but even that is fading. If a good list of stupid TV blunders sounds interesting, I recommend "What Were They Thinking: The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History" by David Hofstede, which is itself breezy and rife with errors but at least provides more than 5 minutes of entertaining reading.