Sunday, May 18, 2008

America's Psychic Challenge

I had the opportunity—no, the pleasure—of catching this reality show yesterday afternoon. My friends and I were flipping through the channels and could literally find absolutely nothing worth watching, so we watched this psychic show.

The premise is obvious—fake psychics compete over who is the best fake psychic. The episode I watched was apparently one in a long running competition.

The host is the worst. He's almost as bad as the host of "Cheaters," whose name I can't remember, but I do remember that he got stabbed, and the classy people behind "Cheaters" chose to air it anyway, and also to sell it to Vh1 so that they could air it on a loop.

The psychics were put through four challenges. They were asked to sense fear, to diagnose illness, determine what traumatic event occurred at a renovated motel, and something else I can't remember. That's journalistic integrity for you.

My favorite part about this show was watching the psychics make up excuses for their foibles. One girl said "they always know, they sometimes just don't tell me."

Now, the thing I didn't quite understand was that, the psychics got scored and ranked based on their performances in each challenge, because apparently psychics can be "kind of right."

One "psychic" sang the Twilight Zone theme song and called herself the "White Serpent." I got the feeling that she just walked into the competition off the street to prove that anyone could be a psychic, and she was totally the best at it.

In the end it was entertaining to make fun of with friends, but definitely nothing worth watching alone, unless there is nothing else on and you don't own any dvd's and don't have dvr and refuse to watch repeats of sitcoms.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Office Season 4 finale

The Office Season 4 Finale-

Yesterday evening, I found myself watching t.v. with my grandparents. They'd had a fight earlier that day and were watching a sitcom called "Till Death," possibly hoping to hasten their own. I watched about a minute and I threw up a little in the back of my throat. I hate about 98% of what's on television, but I still fucking love television because, even though most of what makes it on air could be easily compared to the hard, rock-like, poop doctors remove from patients in need of dis-impacted bowels, it still manages to produce high art. For every "Farmer Has a Wife," "The Bachelor," "A Shot of Love at Love With Tila Tequila," "Til Death," "Ghost Whisperer," "America's Funniest Home Videos," and "American Gladiators," there's a show like "The Office" that makes a television worth owning.

I must say, I was mesmerized and impressed with the finale. I've already watched it twice and am sure to watch it many more times this week as I enjoy, but pretend to wallow in, my seasonal unemployment. I confess that after the pilot I thought that the show had taken an irreversible turn. I've seen the downfall of many great sitcoms in the past, Scrubs and Friends suffered severe downward spirals, to which, I thought, all great sitcoms eventually succumbed. (Don't get me wrong, I don't think Friends was ever great but it was funny at some point in the early 90's.)

The Office this season has explored new territory without compromising the integrity of the show. The writers have expanded upon already present story-elements by adding depth to the characters, developing long-running story-arcs and supplementing each episode with a dose of hilarious sub-plots and brilliant cold-opens.

Introducing new character arcs during the season-finale was a great idea because my belief in the show, in part, hinged on the finale of this season. The writers have resolved, to some degree, the Victorian like courtship of Pam by Jim. Alot of the time devoted to jokes became devoted to character drama. Instead of introducing ridiculous and desperate story-arcs, however, the writers are developing and working with character development.

One confession I have about The Office is this: I've always thought Jim was kind of a douche bag. I think John Krasinski is a great comedic actor and that Jim has always been a funny character, but beyond a few great moments, like the long and excruciating silence he and Pam suffered in "The Cruise," Jim has been just that: funny. The show has demanded little from John Krasinski than good comedic timing and a good puppy dog face, but he finally got a chance to shine in this episode. Jim's "fuck you" speech to Ryan and "courtship" lecture to Michael expanded his character in multiple directions. John Krasinski's execution of both scenes was perfect. His message to Ryan seemed appropriately rehearsed, not by Krasinski, but by Jim. In combination with Jim's talking head about wanting Pam's parents to be psyched about their wedding, his message to Ryan showed a bold, determined and mature side of Jim. The writers have actually incorporated Jim and Pam's romance into the plot so that it's a catalyst for change in both of their lives. Their relationship has pushed them into new territories of adulthood neither character had previously reached. So fictitious Jim, I don't think you're a douche bag anymore. I think you're a badass and I will root for you until Michael delivers Pam's and your baby twins on an elevator in the 18th season.

There was a lot more to love about the season finale. The sub-plot where Dwight tells the new H.R. representative, Holly, that Kevin is "special" was ridiculously funny. Kevin interprets her helpful, maternal behavior as sexual interest. The sub-plot was brilliantly executed with a series of details that nearly made me think that, perhaps Kevin's character IS slow, and I never noticed until this episode. My favorite was when Phyllis reminded him to take off his shoes before he jumped into the moon bounce.

Steve Carrell's chemistry with Holly was beautifully written and acted. I never thought that watching Michael throw away a "that's what she said joke" could be so touching, but when you think about how perfect the set up was "it's easy to get in, but almost impossible to go up," his response "a lot of companies do that" was as good as an "I could learn to love you over the course of the next 22 episodes."

I'm not sure how I feel about Jan's pregnancy or Toby's crush on Pam. I've always felt that the downfall of Jan was a weak story-arc and I really liked her as Michael's highly controlled and perpetually angry boss. Jan was excellent as Michael's boss and I don't see how they can redeem her in any useful or funny way. I'd rather see Michael get together with Holly, the new girl that looks EXACTLY LIKE Jan… or am I the only one who thinks that?

My sister for some reason was a fan of the Toby- Pam plot, but I never bought it. Even at my most anti-Jim, I always new, in my deepest heart of hearts, that he and Pam belonged together. I mean, I'm more certain about their romance than I've ever been about any of my real life romances.

Ryan's arrest was brilliant. Now that I think about it, they've been building up to that plot point for a long time, but I didn't realize it until tonight. Kelly's plan to visit Ryan in prison was Kelly's brightest moment of the season.

On that note I'll stop and say I cannot wait until the season 5 pilot.