31 January 2012

Paul Brittain, We Hardly Knew Ye

This morning I got word from my good friend Zach that Paul Brittain is out at SNL, effective immediately. My first response was to feel mildly hurt -- this is just like when Michaela Watkins was gone after what seemed like only 5 seconds' worth of airtime. Here I am, trying to make a new friend to watch on television, when he's just yanked out from under me like so many oriental rugs. Paul Brittain, we hardly knew ye.

I remember when Brittain was first cast. Of the four fresh-faced up-and-comers, he was the only one who erased his entire online existence as soon as the new cast was announced. Unable to scout him before the season started,* I blindly tuned into his first episode. I can't really remember how it went, except that Taran Killam and Vanessa Bayer were awesome. "But give Paul and Jay a chance, Beck," I reminded myself. "Jay will start incorporating his very good impressions into scenes, and as for Paul? Well, let's just assume Paul's got a little something stashed up his sleeve, and BOY OH BOY I can't wait to see it!" With the weird, quiet, white guy comedians, the payoff can be quite substantial. This is an advanced comedy lesson I have just taught you.

I still can't wait to see Brittain's payoff, and I don't mean that backhandedly. It's a shame that Wyndemere was the biggest character I saw the guy do in a season and a half. I loved his background work in "Les Jeunes de Paris," but it's hardly his masterpiece. Apparently he did impressions of Johnny Depp and James Franco, but these memories are scant and watery. I'm still trying to figure out what he'll be best known for during his time at SNL.

Maybe leaving SNL is going to be the best way to funnel Brittain into the project that will finally show off just how talented he is. Just like Jenny Slate, Hi Jenny, with Marcel the Shell. "Wyndemere the Hermit Crab with a Pirate Eyepatch" - that is yours for free, Paul Brittain.

I intend to gamble on you, and one day, win big.



30 January 2012

Usage Mondays: Prodigal

Hello and welcome to the 2nd weekly installment of Usage Mondays! Today we will explore the word "prodigal," its Biblical ties, and its checkered past as a compulsive gambler.

Most people are introduced to today's word through Jesus's ever-popular parable, "The Prodigal Son." The parable does not appear in any Gospel besides Luke (15:11-32), and it recounts the story of a rich man and his two sons. To paraphrase:
One day a rich man's younger son went up to him and asked for his half of the inheritance right then and there. This was odd because the father wasn't even dead yet, but because he was very kind and generous and he loved his sons SO much, he was just like "Ok, whatever you want! Have it! I don't care!!!!!" The young son waited around for like two seconds before jetting off into the city to have fun. He gambled, slept around, and "wasted his substance with riotous living." Inevitably, he blew through all the inheritance in a matter of days. 
When the money was all gone, the son thought about going back home but was too embarrassed about what he'd done. So he looked and looked for work until he finally got a job feeding pigs. Unfortunately there was also a famine at the time, so he was starving. In fact, he was really tempted to eat the pig slop. I'm not sure if he ended up eating it or not. Long story short, he'd arrived at rock bottom.
Finally he decided to go back home - BUT he would ask to be accepted as a servant because of all his shame. As soon as he got there, humbled and ragged and disgusting, his father gave him a huge hug and a big kiss and there was absolutely zero discussion of this servant business ever again. In fact, the father slaughtered a fattened calf for the celebration of having his son back.
Meanwhile the other son, the one who never left, was out in the fields WORKING when he heard his brother was back and that there would be a party. Naturally completely pissed off, he refused to celebrate with them. The father came out and invited him in. The son was like, "Hell no, you never slaughtered anything even remotely like a fattened calf for me. And I've been here the whole freaking time."
The father said, "Yes, yes, and that's awesome. Literally, everything I have has always been yours for the taking" (which at this point is true by definition because the younger brother already took half of what the father had, so obviously whatever he has left belongs to the older son. But whatever, this was supposed to be more about God etc). "We thought your brother was dead, but he's not!" cried the father. "It's only right to PARTAY!!!!!!!!!"
That is my translation of the story. But even if you'd read it in NIV or RSV or KJV, you'd get the same two themes out of it: Wastefulness & Returning Home. Wastefulness because of the Prodigal Son's spending habits in the city AND because of the father's massive welcome-home party. Returning Home because, obviously, the Prodigal Son returns home (in contrast to his brother, who never leaves home - but that's just as much of an exploration of theme).

Hence, people feel like "prodigal" must mean "returning home after a long time spent away," when really it DOESN'T MEAN THAT.

"Prodigal" means "lavish, or characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure." It comes from the Latin "prodigere," which means to drive away or to squander.

That is, the Prodigal Son is prodigal because he made it rain one too many times. Not because he came back home to Pops.


27 January 2012


Now that Vinny has moved back to Staten Island for the foreseeable future (and Mike has dipped out to sit in a gutter next door for the afternoon), the gang is short-handed at the Shore Store. Bossman Danny warns them that he's (a) PISSED and (b) going to be bringing in new workers/roommates. Does this mean the Odd Season Curse will produce another new cast member? (Not that Deena's a curse. She's not a curse, but she is cursed, that's for sure.) I hope it's a Meatball Boy!

It turns out Mike was just out on the back patio all day, chilling out. Deena calls attention to herself and her bulge by telling him not to "dip off" anymore. Come on, Deen. It's dip OUT. Everyone gathers around the phone to try to guilt Vinny into coming back for the dudes' birthdays. Vinny: "Nope, I'm definitely not coming back, no way."

The Meatballs then cruise into Karma to set up early for Pauly D and Mike's surprise party. Snooki tells the Stripper Manager that nobody needs to take the guys' pants down once they're handcuffed to their wheelchairs. Clearly, that's just for girls. This illustrates exactly how aware of pants-etiquette Snooki actually is, thereby rendering all of her past crotch shots TOTALLY intentional.

Because Ronnie shows up late to his shift at the Shore Store, Danny hauls off and puts up a Help Wanted sign. Two identical girls walk in asking for the job, one after the other, sort of like Groundhog Day. It's supposed to be two different girls, but it's the same girl twice. Both make me puke. Snooki and Deena, noticing that there's going to be new help, decide to dip out to Party City just for kicks. They try on huge rabbit costume heads and hump each other in the middle of the aisle. Then an Employees Only door swings open for just a moment and in that instant we can see Kubrick shaving a woman's face. They both look at us, and we look at them, just for a split second. Spooooooky!!!

That night at the boys' birthday party, there is both a boobies cake and a butt cake. There are also 2 giant fake cakes clearly fashioned out of computer paper. And strippers pop out of them! Later that night, Situation brings his stripper home before realizing what a weirdo she is. She gives him a hard time about not giving her matching socks to borrow. Please don't TRY this hard, stripper. This is a reality show. Leave it to the pros.

Ronnie and Deena try calling Vinny again, but he doesn't pick up the phone. Deena tells Ronnie not to cry, but he does anyway because he "misses [his] fuckin' friend." This is almost as bad as Pauly's heartbroken face two weeks ago. A stripper griping about socks = fake drama. Ronnie and Pauly shedding actual tears because they miss their friend = real drama, and more importantly, REALLY the reason I watch Jersey Shore. They're cartoons, yes, but they're PEOPLE, TOO!

We realize Snooki actually bought the full-body bunny suit as she plans a trick to play on Jwoww. At Deena's call, Jenni walks into the room only to come face-to-face with a (relatively) giant bunny! Deena, Snooki, Jwoww, and I convulse with laughter. This is pure comedy. I am completely serious.

That night at the club, Deena wears fairy wings meant for 3rd grade ballerina girls. I never had those wings, of course, because God forbid I should ever have identified with feminine things, but on the flip side, those things were for nerds who weren't cool enough to dress up as Wednesday Addams every Halloween for 10 years. A kindred feeling in my heart tells me that Deena is making up for lost time. Wear those wings, kid. But only to Karma.

There is a girl fight, but it is useless. Some girl pulls Sammi's hair, so Sammi "self-defends herself" by throwing a drink in her face. Nobody cares.

The next morning, Snooki convinces herself that she's having a heart attack. She starts screaming to the other roommates, but everyone holds their breath before responding. She's like the crying baby of the house, and if you just wait ONE more minute, she might tire herself out and quiet down. But if you go in there, she'll never shut up. Luckily Snooki somehow survives the heart attack.

I guess the heart attack + girlfight + the bunny suit all add up to going to Staten Island and forcefully bringing Vinny back. First, obviously, the gang hits up Shore Store to make Vinny-themed t-shirts. Then they're off to SI! (Don't worry, Deena brings the fairy wings.)

Although Vinny looks extremely depressed, he ends up going home with them. He shows them his new tattoo/mantra - Let Go, Let God - and everyone applauds his decision to get a permanent tattoo in the midst of a clinical depression. Then they moon each other all the way back to Seaside.

In the end, all Vinny needed was a little time away from the cameras, stripper cakes, and Meatballs native to the Jersey Shore. And do you know what I found out this week? Guess what Vinny's mom's name is. IT'S PAULA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

all photos courtesy mtv.com

23 January 2012


Just like Kenneth Ellen Parcell, but real!*

Just like Becky watching Laser Shows in the summer when she was little, but less racist!

Just like a REAL mountain, but actually just the largest granite deposit in the continental US!!!!!

Donald Glover is from Stone Mountain!

*Oh, because Donald Glover was already writing for 30 Rock at that point.

Becklectic is now the 30 Rock Writer Guy Fan Blog for talkin' bout Georgee farts and yeehaw peachtrees amen thanks for watchin'

Gangway For Usage Mondays!

Thanks to Tracy Morgan and the rest of the Word Guys over at 30 Rock, "nonplussed" had the night of its life last Thursday. Living it up Hollywood style, just the way it is, in all its natural & definition-based glory. Looks like our ship has finally come in, nonplussed!!!!!!!!!! HONNNNNK HONNNNNK!

Since it is now perfectly clear that my blog has the power TO CHANGE THE VERY GRAMMATICAL TEMPERATURE OF TELEVISION, I realize I have no choice. The people have spoken, and the people want usage errors! Introducing

To kick things off (and to keep me modest), I'm taking a long, hard look at "highfalutin."

"Highfalutin" describes someone who is putting on airs, or otherwise acting extremely self-important and proper (e.g. this blog post). In The American Language, H.L. Mencken states that the word was coined in an 1840s political speech and was but one of several words invented during the early 19th century. Since there is no distinct definition of "faluting" (and we're never "low-faluting" or "mid-faluting"), we are left to assume that it's one of those funny American made-up orphan words, and we are obliged to treat it as it is and not how we believe it should be. 

According to the 2000 edition The Oxford Usage Dictionary by Bryan Garner, "highfalutin" IS a word whereas "highfaluting" is NOT SO MUCH. And furthermore:
"The best course is to do two things: spell the word highfalutin, and avoid being what it denotes."


20 January 2012

3 Paulas, 2 Birthday Boys, & 1 Insistent Bosnian

The title of last night's Jersey Shore, "Dropping Like Flies," may lead one to believe that people are fleeing the Shore House, when in fact, Danny's Bungalow is more like a giant, powerful magnet: crazy girls flock there, alcohol rushes into the roommates' bloodstreams, and birds build their nests in Deena's extensions. It's actually quite difficult to leave Seaside's sphere of influence. But where Vinny departed, there formed a small rip in the fabric of Shore-Time. As it expands, will the gang step through, one by one, to the dangerous outside world? What will happen to the Shore once everyone's gone? Will Danny have to start a new show where Angelina comes back and turns the Shore Store into a bridal shoppe? Oh no!!!!

In a daze, Pauly sets off for the club to tell the rest of his roommates that Vinny's gone. Deena starts weeping instantly, and Sammi's unsatisfied. Sammi: "Are you tellingk me he's actyuwally gowingk??" Deena: "He was, like, my soul." Jwoww takes Deena into the bathroom to clean her up and pull her skirt back down over her package. Deena literally leaves the bathroom trailing toilet paper on her shoe.

Pauly brings home a girl that night, and Situation speaks a little Italian to her - mostly a joke about "pecorino" that involves, you guessed it, p******s? Wait, what? I couldn't understand the joke because of the bleep! I rented Jersey Shore Season 1 a few years ago off Netflix, and let me tell you: it's much better when you can hear their colorful swears. Uncensored is always better.

Thank God, Vinny brought the camera crews home with him. Obviously Sallyann Salsano can't get enough of Uncle Nino. He will have his own show deal before 2013, mark my words.  "The Young Girl Dating Game with Uncle Nino" or "Unbeknownst Freak Dancing with Uncle Nino" or something like that. Vinny's mom is refreshingly un-made-up. She hugs him hello and tells him to get straight to bed.

The next day at home, the Meatballs agree to "just get wastypants." While it's humorous to rationalize hardcore drinking with diminutive slang, it's also pretty freaking serious. They really are about to get horribly wasted, and there's nothing pantsy about it. The girls run into Deena's sister halfway through their daytime bingefest, and she introduces them to her gay friend. Deena: "I could hang out with gay men all freakin' day ['cause I am one]!" The Meatballs proceed to dance their miniskirts up to their belly buttons and then dogpile each other. Yet again they have unwittingly reenacted The Terrys.

It's round about dinner time, and the Meatballs spill into the house just in time to get dressed for night clubbing. One big caveat: Deena has somehow danced her hair into a rat's nest. It's not like there's gum in there, but something's definitely wrong. Pauly starts tearing out her tangled extensions. Jwoww tells her that it's pointless and that she's got to deep condition. This, right here, is 4am jazz. Not 7pm jazz. At 7pm it's like a daylit nightmare that just won't end.

Pauly brings home another girl from the club, noting that she's Vinny's type and that he's got to do this for Vinny (again). I think Pauly's got to do this for DJ Pauly D, the funloving, free-wheeling MC who never feels any pain, not EVER! Do you hear him, God?! NEVER!

The next day at the Shore Store, a Bosnian girl lets Situation watch her try on clothes. She then tells him she wants grilled cheese in the morning (clearly she's a big fan of the show). The funny thing is, her accent and syntax are quite understandable and self-assured. How does she so successfully toe this line between starfuckery and earnest flirting? And how does she end up in such a strange predicament at the end of the night?

After a quick upright catnap behind huge aviators, The Situation decides to spend his birthday night with Paula instead. He generously cedes Bosnia to Pauly, and the Jersey UN goes out for a night on the town. Everything adds up to a perfect Birthday Eve...until Bosnia decides she doesn't want to spend the night with Pauly. She wants to go home to the Shore House, of course, but she ultimately doesn't want to be intimate with the kid. How is this where she draws the line?

Pauly calls her a cab, and the rest of the house gabs about how selfish Bosnia turned out to be. Suddenly she pops up again, forcing her way in through the front door. She walks out to the back patio to, I guess, have a special date with Sitch while Paula takes a shower upstairs. Mike is nonplussed.

For his birthday, Pauly's mother brings his entire family (including "both Aunt Paulas") as well as "the rest of Rhode Island" to Seaside. She even brings his barber. Wow, Mrs. Pauly, A+. That's something even Vinny couldn't have done. Not that he's around anymore. Oh man. When Pauly's brother sees the haircut excitement, he exclaims, "YeahhhhhhBuddy! I told ya, ma!" Wow, I love the Del Vecchios a lot.

Off in a corner somewhere, Drunk Deena slurs, "I know I'm not the smartest crayon in the box, but this isn't rocket scientist." Somewhere halfway through that, my apartment realizes she's putting us on. But I firmly believe that the smart/sharp mix-up was unintentional, so I do not resent Deena's choice to whole-hog it. In fact, I only rarely resent Deena's attempts at whole-hoggery. I'm still not sure what she's talking about in the first place, though.

Mike gets sad at the Del Vecchio Rivoli's Family Style Birthday Dinner because nobody's paying enough attention to him. "I'm like a house with no leg right now. And that's 30," he opines, then he passes out on the couch at the restaurant and starts snoring loudly. Ron-Ron puts whipped cream on his face but Mike doesn't seem immediately upset about it. He must be saving it up for later.

Sammi's been working on a Pauly D Cake for hours in the kitchen. It's really good. What's even better is how full-on HUMAN Sammi is being right now. She's applying herself for good and for someone other than Ron. She's good-humored even though she's been working hard for an extended period of time. It's a miracle!!!!! Unfortunately, the cake has no mention of Mike on it. Telling.

Mike cries up on the roof and admits that, "at the end of the day, I'm a very emotional dude." Then, apparently just by leaving the house for a bit, Mike seems to have convinced the roommates that he has "dipped out" just like Vinny. He doesn't pack any clothes or call a taxi as far as I can see. He just goes out for a few. I guess everyone just wants him out of there that bad.

Next Week: Pauly gets yet another party, where Sammi ends up getting into a fistfight with some other girl. Then everyone goes to Staten Island to get Vinny!!!

all photos courtesy mtv.com

17 January 2012

13 January 2012

Vinny Dumps Seaside Heights For Statener Islands

After last week's non-stop thrill ride, it was hard to spend last night focusing on Vinny's burgeoning depression. But luckily, egg sandwiches and diamond thieves livened up the rest of the episode, so in the end everyone won. Except of course for Jwoww's section of opening credits, which still suggests that she's a squatty, caustic bottle-blonde. Everyone knows she's a lithe, maternal brunette now. C'mon.

I'm not one to belittle someone else's bouts with depression, but then again I'm about to do exactly that to Vinny. Early on in the hour, he tells the roommates that he's "got nothin' left to give, man." That's tough. He was giving so much before, and all his contributions were truly the heart of the show. Whereas Vinny used to give, now he cannot. Just try to sit around with Pauly D, Vinny, and it'll all come rushing back. All the old contributions of sitting around, alternating between nice guy and asshole.

The gang runs home from the club through driving rain on the boardwalk, and although Deena is wearing (soaked) white short-shorts, she manages to keep her package demurely hidden. Back at home Jionni borrows dry clothes from Sitch. The Situation can't help but notice how ironic it all is that Jionni seems to like him - and he's almost right because it's certainly dramatic irony. But the way Sitch means "ironic," Jionni would have to actually know about their indiscretion and still act this way. At least it means he's been listening to Alanis.

Snooki and Jionni go to bed without the egg sandwich Jionni had begun to prepare, so Mike brings it up to their love nest. Sitch then refers to this as "playing chess," and he suggests that if Jionni can't handle it, "maybe you should drop down to checkers." If chess = barging in somewhere with an egg sandwich, then does checkers = plain old cheesebed?

The next day at the Shore Store, Sammi and Jwoww notice yet again how depressed Vinny's acting. Even though he's standing next to something (way bigger than a onesie) that reads "I have a Situation in my diaper." Must be a men's shirt. Danny Shorestoreton takes Vinny out for a drink and a heart-to-heart on the boardwalk. This must be the equivalent of when you've been working somewhere for a while and your relationship with your boss is so great that suddenly you're just taking lunches together and gabbing about life. Vinny admits that he was diagnosed with clinical anxiety when he was 16, thereby eliciting a gasp of adoration from my entire living room, including me. Aw Vinny.

In a somehow parallel situation, Pauly's face is peeling off from sunburn. Looks like his double tanning sesh last week had some bad consequences, after all. He buys aloe for himself and Vinny, then brings him out to the spa for mani/pedis. Somehow even that doesn't cheer up Vin.

As the gang preps for Karma, Snooki explains why it's important to get so dressed up: "Just because if you don't look hot at the first night of Karma, Karma will come back to get you." Just barely qualifying as wordplay, Snookleby's witty aphorism takes the wordsmithery crown from Mr. & Mrs. Ron-Ron! She celebrates by baring her "Jionni's" underwear with her skirt up, which is exactly what made Jionni leave Italy in a huff just 7 hours after arrival.

About an hour later, Snooks is about 20 shots in and trying to dance on top of the very narrow bar at Karma. Jionni tells her to come down, to which she says, "Oh my God, I was gonna like, cook you like, chicken cutlets and stuff like that." "What?" he asks. "Whatever, I'm over it," says Shnickers. "What chicken cutlets?!" cries Jionni. This may seem like gibberish, but believe it or not, I follow the entire thing:
1. Snooki sees Jionni's shame as belief that she can't be a truly respectable woman if she's dancing on bars. Knowing that Jionni wants a respectable woman, she's upset.
2. So she insists that she is a respectable Italian wife-to-be by telling him about all the chicken cutlets she would have made for him in their married future. He is confused.
3. Snooki takes Jionni's confused face as an incredulous face. What an asshole!
4. Defensive, she tells him she's over it - over this whole Mother vs. Whore dichotomy. If Jionni can't see past her present as a Whore to her potential future as a Mother, well, then he's just a jerk. That is what Snooki is thinking.

Here is what Jionni's thinking: "What chicken cutlets?"

Then Snooki falls down and promptly calls Jionni "such a fuckin' idiot." Naturally he takes offense, but naturally that's not what Snooki really means. She means "let's play around in an innocuous way," and she uses the words "fuckin' idiot" because that's the sort of colloquial, playful language she's used to. She would never dare to call someone as princely as her Fair Sweet Jionni a "fuckin' idiot" and mean it. For some reason, Jionni doesn't get any of this, even though I'm pretty sure it's a subset of Guido Code. Maybe it's Guidette Code.

Mike leaves the club with an old standby named Paula, and Pauly D leaves the club with some girl whose name I don't know but I'll assume it's Michaela. Michaela to Pauly: "I'm gonna lay you on the bed...and do you!!!" I wish she were the one named Paula.

Pauly kicks Sitchina out at 4am, but no cabs are available for at least another hour. So they occupy their time by sitting in separate rooms. Pauly picks his nose in the living room. Girl steals his diamond chain in the smush room. When the taxi finally arrives, Deena comes out to the den to scream "CABS ARE HERE!" as loud as my television goes. Shepherd her out, Deena, that's right. Pauly will admire that and naturally choose you as his next lover/sheepdog.

Pauly's girlfriend returns the next day in underwear, a cropped tank top, and the diamond chain. Pauly treats it like everything's fine, even though he most definitely gave that stalker girl a much harder time in seasons past for much less. Diamond chains cost a lot of money, yo! Snooki knows what's up, though. She knows what this girl is up to, yet she doesn't use that knowledge to help her friend Deensie out. It wouldn't have worked anyway, Deena. He's just not that into you.

That night as they prepare to go out, one of the Meatballs says, "I'm not gonna drink at the club." Then they both crack up laughing, falling all over themselves on the dirty carpet of the living room. Meanwhile upstairs, Vinny actually isn't going to drink, forget about going to the club. It's getting pretty grim.

Pauly overhears Vinny calling his sister to come pick him up. This is the most raw I've ever seen Pauly - he's near tears, and his age is finally showing. Eventually, a very small voice begs, "Stay for me, Vinny." Damn, Vin, you've broken Pauly's heart. And it's such a well-protected heart, too.
Prepare to break right in two, Pauly Diastolic. side note: I bet Brian Moylan uses that in his recap. He's always making up full names for DJ Pauly Demonstrative. Now I am too.

Vinny hops in a cab as Pauly stares out through the 2nd story window, a lone tear catching in his eye. Off it speeds, smogging up the moonlit boardwalk, until all Pauly can see is the pavement where his best friend used to be. He touches the star tattoo on his elbow, then touches the matching star on his t-shirt. This was the last person he ever wanted to put in a cab.

Next week it looks like everyone forgets Sitch's birthday, and he gets REALLY MAD.

photos courtesy MTV.com

11 January 2012

Field Trip Bus Rides Of Yore: Shelley Duvall's Tall Tales & Legends

Every so often I use Shelley Duvall's Tall Tales & Legends in conversation, and to this day, very few people have ever known what I'm talking about:

Me: Oh man, you know what I'd love to watch right now? One of those Shelley Duvall videos with Calamity Jane or Annie Oakley.
Person I'm Talking To: ...The Shining?
Me: No no, those ones where she'd flop down into a huge easy chair on this saloon soundstage. And she'd tell a story from the Old West.
Person: ...Kubrick?
Me: No, we'd watch these ones on the longer bus rides to field trips back in elementary school. They were on VHS.
Person: Wow, that's really cool of your teachers. They would've never shown us Kubrick.
Me: Clearly, this needs blogging about.

Although there is very little information about this series on the internet, I have managed to dig most of it up. Shelley Duvall's Tall Tales & Legends ran from 1985-1987 on Showtime. She created and produced it, which automatically increases my respect for Shelley freaking Duvall by about 100%. This series was my first introduction to many American tall tales, which then must have fermented into some sort of interest in American Studies, which then must have been why I majored in it. Oops, I majored in Shelley Duvall. Too late now!

Here are the tales covered by the series:
  1. Annie Oakley
  2. Casey at the Bat
  3. Darlin' Clementine
  4. Davy Crockett
  5. John Henry
  6. Johnny Appleseed
  7. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
  8. Pecos Bill
  9. Ponce de Leon
And here are the actors who play them:
  1. Annie Oakley: Jamie Lee Curtis
  2. Buffalo Bill Cody: Brian Dennehy
  3. Casey (at the bat): Elliott Gould
  4. Casey's girlfriend: Carol Kane
  5. Clementine: Shelley Duvall, herself
  6. Clementine's father: Ed Asner
  7. Misc. Characters: Michael McKean
  8. John Henry: Danny Glover
  9. Johnny Appleseed: Martin Short
  10. Jenny Smith: Molly Ringwald
  11. Ichabod Crane: Ed Begley, Jr.
  12. Katrina Van Tassel: Beverly D'Angelo
  13. Pecos Bill: Steve Guttenberg
  14. Slew Foot Sue: Rebecca De Mornay
  15. Side characters: Martin Mull & Megan Mullaly (!!!!!!!1987MeganMullaly???!!!!!!)
  16. Ponce de Leon: Michael York

Please awaken this part of your memory so we can TALK ALL ABOUT IT!

Additionally, I have just purchased the complete series on dvd from Amazon. Let me know when you're free and we'll watch it.

all photos courtesy TallTalesAndLegends.com

09 January 2012

I Have Already Watched Dazed & Confused Twice This Year

And here is what I've been working on:

fig. 1
Repeatedly watching Dazed & Confused has allowed me to spend a lot of time reflecting on Dazed & Confused. This weekend I realized that my favorite character is Dawson, given how funny and cool he is, and it made me wonder what exactly it is that makes him cool. He's nice to Hirschfelder, for one, and that got me thinking: who else (of the cool football players) is "nice to Hirschfelder," i.e. doesn't terrorize the freshmen? And what does it say about these seniors' self esteem? Just how cool are these football players, if they have to paddle freshmen just to have a good time? You never see Wooderson beating anyone up. Just saying.

As you can see (fig. 1):
fig. 2
  • Randall "Pink" Floyd is The Coolest because he invites Mitch to the party, gives him lots of alcohol and drugs, and introduces him around to his friends (which include the stoners and the poker playing dorkuses). Pink gets along with everyone, thus he is cool.
  • Don Dawson is Pretty Cool because he tosses Hirschfelder a beer after he gets hit by O'Bannion and Benny. Dawson also gets along with most everyone, the stoners in particular. He signs the football agreement (fig. 2) with no compunction, though. Uncool, but understandable as self-preservation.
  • Melvin Spivey is Cool because look at the guy. Remember when he dances like Rerun in the bed of that pickup truck during the beer bust? Damn, that's cool. He's also cool because he lets Mitch keep one of the beers Mitch picked up for him. Unfortunately this whole agreement thing is pulling him into the lame abyss. He picks up Pink's discarded, wadded up form from the grass. He also enjoys whaling on the freshmen a little too much.
  • Benny O'Donnell is Not That Cool. He gives Pink a lame speech about how he's letting his friends down by not signing the thing AT THE BEER BUST. He also rags on Dawson for giving Hirschfelder a beer, even though there are literally millions of beers in the trunk. Terrible to freshmen. Terrible, period.
  • Fred O'Bannion is Fully Lame. His behavior in every scene is a start, but you can also observe lameness in the way he failed senior year - he's so lame, he's staying at school for another year. At least Pink wants to move on after this year. O'Bannion, what a jerk. I must say, I wish he had gotten Carl at least a little. (Ya hear that? He was gettin' there!) Screw you, Carl.
all photos courtesy Richard Linklater's Dazed & Confused, 1993

06 January 2012

The Jersey Shore: Season V(D)

I love Jersey Shore because Jersey Shore loves me. Just when I start to notice its absence, it pops back into my life - like an awesome babysitter that you think won't come back (because let's face it, you're not that lucky), but then GUESS WHAT: it's date night suckers! And the fun is back! And it lets you watch episodes of Jersey Shore at 10pm even though your mom (and society) doesn't think it's such a good idea!

The first few minutes of the episode, "Hurricane Situation," follow the gang slouching toward New Jersey, i.e. the motherland. Sammi kisses the Jersey airport carpet (Sam, get ya mouth off da floor!), and Professor Ronald Creatinstein notes, "it's like America is my mother and I'm coming home to my mother right now." Thank you, Ronnie, for finally crafting a simile that the rest of us can get.

Somewhere in the airport-to-Shore trip, Deena's dick falls out of her dress. Just kidding. But seriously, Deena and Snooki should make a funnyordie video with Danny DeVito as Papa Meatball. How and when did actual trolls break into tv? And what was tv like before that? I can't remember.

The first drama of the season revolves around room assignments, for you see, no one wants to live with Mike. No one wants to get cheese-bedded, and no one wants to be the "reason" Mike cracks his skull open on another concrete wall. Still repenting for their previous domestic abuse, Sam and Ron volunteer to live with Sitch again. Why can't Mike just get sent to the Smush Room? It could be a good solution. Caveat: Mike would have to agree to give up his room and sleep in the vacant bed when someone else wants to smush. And Mike would never, ever agree to that, or to anything else, ever.

Out in the kitchen, Snooki's chugging pickle brine like she's thirsty. Deena has the decency to at least take a shot first (Pickle Back!), and then Ron makes his patented Ron-Ron Juice. Its ingredients are fresh fruit, Everclear, a fish skeleton, and empty Rx bottles.

The gang visits the boardwalk and their beloved boss/landlord, Danny. No longer the mid-30s boy he used to be, Danny is now solidly a late-30s man. He's more wrinkled, more relaxed, and definitely more rich. He invites them all out for drinks tomorrow night, but little do they know - it's a surprise party!

Before the party, the boys GTL and get haircuts. Mike sprays his hair for a long, long time, probably to be funny but more likely because he has BRAIN DAMAGE. Consider all of Situation's actions since the head trauma. Pathetic attempts to be funny? Or demonstrable impairment of mental faculties? Back home, Vinny admires his new haircut in the mirror as Pauly D comes up to stand right behind him. Ha-ha, Vinny with Pauly hair - BUT WAIT. Where on earth is the camera? From this angle and these mirrors, we should be able to see the camera op. Where is he?

The kids arrive at their surprise party, and Vinny's so touched to see his mother that he cries. Oh Danny, you sweet 39.5 year old, you plan a great surprise party. Obviously Uncle Nino is there, slobbering on all the young women. It turns out Ronnie had the Smush Room idea first, but with Uncle Nino living there. Suddenly all the warmth in the room turns cold as a large silhouette fills the doorway -- it's The Unit.

Of the four people involved in That Night (the night Mike uses to torture Snooki with forever), The Unit is the only one who could back up Mike's story. Snooki and Ryder have made a silent pact never to reveal anything that happened, and no one believes Sitch's version of events. The Unit may be The Situation's friend, but even he wouldn't completely fabricate an entire story. That's Guido Code.

The Unit makes Snooki nervous, so she screams obscenities at him from across the bar, scandalizing Vinny's entire family. (PS I'm pretty sure Ryder got a boob job since the last time we saw her. No relevance, just saying). Jwoww takes Unit aside to ask what really happened that night, but he never gets around to saying anything pertinent. He just stares covetously at her Christmas bow ribbon belt.

Back at home, Situation tries to give Unit a shirt to sleep in, but The Unit doesn't wear shirts. Mike starts in with the Axe, overspraying it everywhere, and again, I chalk it up to the head wound. Ryder, who has already been romantically involved with Vinny, The Unit, and The Situation, is now going after Pauly D. According to Samantha Kittensby, Prof. Ron's teaching assistant: "Ryder's really ridin' around town." All hail the King and Queen of Wordsmithery! Deena hangs out uninvited in Pauly's room for a depressing 5 minutes before giving up and finally letting them smush.

Snooki manages to avoid The Unit all night by sequestering herself and Jionni in the Smush Room. In the morning she makes a hasty and insincere apology, hoping to keep The Unit's mouth shut. Again Guido Code comes in: now that Snooks has said apology-type words, The Unit can't really spill his story. He must wait until she gives him an unprovoked side-eye or scoff, or at least until they're drunker.

Meanwhile, Vinny's depressed. The gang goes to the Aztec to cheer him up, but it must be Grenade Night because all they can see are bombs going off. Old women challenge them to dance contests, making Vinny more depressed. He might go back to Staten Island early. At the bar Jionni buys copious drinks for Situation, almost as if he's trying to get him drunk. Naturally it will make the inevitable late-night confrontation back at home more enjoyable for us all. But that has to wait for next week - the show's over, folks!

With The Unit in town, it's impossible not to do a little thinking about the Jersey Shore kids' names. The Unit and The Situation are not only nicknames - they're ideas (even less namey than regular nicknames). And that just goes to show how much they're hiding. A few years ago, my film professor went nuts describing the significance of names in Rear Window: Grace Kelly, who has nothing to hide, says her full name (Lisa Carol Fremont) while turning on three lamps. Jimmy Stewart, who hides in shadows watching people and specifically doesn't want to be seen, has the name "L.B. Jeffries," and Lisa has to call him "Jeff" just to feel close. The names storytellers use tell us how hidden those characters wish to be, and Jersey Shore is nothing if not at least partially fiction. I'm sure that Maryann Salsano asked the kids to come up with their own nicknames before they came on the show. Some of them just didn't stick. That's why the credits still say Sammi "Sweetheart" and Jenni "JWOWW." The nicknames would serve to heighten the fakeness of the cast and to remove them further from reality.

Certain people in the house have so little to hide, they've never needed to use a different name. With people like Ronnie and Deena, what you see is what you get. But with people like Situation and Unit, you're never sure what they're thinking. Here's where Snooki comes in: she's been trying to get people to call her Nicole, especially in reality, but people refuse to make the change. We will call her Snooki because that is the character we like and want to see. But a name like Snooki comes with dubious intentions. "Nicole" may have hooked up with "Mike," but "Snooki" has to hide all the evidence of ever touching "Situation." It's all about appearances, and it's all about keeping the truth hidden.

The preview for the rest of the season is insane. I can't wait for next Thursday. Let's not wait. Is that ok MTV? Ok go ahead please let's go we're ready.

all photos courtesy mtv.com

04 January 2012

Let The 2012 TV Anticipation Begin! (Updated)

Academia tries to push school into a year-round calendar and fails, presumably because it lacks my support. Television gives itself a year-round premiere calendar and wins! Because I love it!! September: new shows! January: new shows! Summer: stuff goes on in the summer, I'm sure! Maybe Top Chef? Without further ado:

A MIDSEASON PREMIERES DREAM by William Shakesalsano 

Jersey Shore, MTV, Thurs 1/5 at 10pm
The gang flies straight from Italy into MY LIFE AGAIN! Prediction: Deena will misspeak. Snooki will get drunk. Jenni will be romantically sensible. Pauly D will win her over, anyway!!! 

Project Runway All Stars, Lifetime, Thurs 1/5 at 9pm
Mondo's coming back, but this time he's gonna have to deal with MICHAEL ANTHONY!!! Prediction: Mondo and Michael Anthony will become best (dressed) friends. (I mixed them up)

Portlandia, IFC, Fri 1/6 at 10pm
More comedy about serious bicyclists and artisan picklers! Prediction: They will have >1 guest star. 

30 Rock, NBC, Thurs 1/12 at 8pm
Liz "The Lizard" Lemon returns, only now she's got a baby and she's married...to a woman?! Prediction: Somebody will talk about Avery and North Korea and that discussion will somehow not be boring. 

Alcatraz, Fox, Mon 1/16 at 8pm
I don't know man, but if Hurley's in it and people start disappearing, then I'm going to be there. But this time I'm not investing in it emotionally, that's for sure. Never again. Prediction: "Hey Becky, why do you think the Alcatraz guards disappeared?" "I don't make predictions about this sort of thing anymore. I've been hurt too badly in the past. I am sadder and wiser now." 

Archer, FX, Thurs 1/19 at 10pm
AHOOOOOOOGA!!!!!!!!! Prediction: Burt Reynolds stops by but no one makes a Best Friends joke, only Gator jokes. That's ok. 

Luck, HBO, 1/29 at 9pm
I was so angrily confused while watching the pilot! But I will watch until it makes sense. Prediction: The world's next fad is HORSE BETTING!!!

Walking Dead, AMC, Sun 2/12 at (probably) 10pm
Freaking finally. Prediction: You may think the search for Sophia is over, but you have no idea how long they can stretch out the search for Sophia's training bra!

Bob's Burgers, Fox, Sun 3/11 at 8:30pm
Bob's Burgers has to wait for the Napoleon Dynamite cartoon to finish up first, but boy oh boy, when it does!! Man this has taken forever to come back. And now it's a mid-midseason replacement. Nothing's too good for H. Jon Benjamin! Prediction: I will enjoy it.

Game of Thrones, HBO, Sun 4/15
Prediction: Winter comes.

Mad Men, AMC, Sundays? This summer?
Thanks for waiting an entire year and then STILL not even setting a release date, AMC. You really are the king.
UPDATE: March 25th!! But it took Jon Hamm visiting a Doug Benson podcast for the news to come out. Get it together, AMC.

And you know Top Model's coming back somewhere in there too. Well done, friends, we've weathered the storm!