Saturday, November 6, 2010

Unisex Bud Light

So I'm watching this commercial and I'm thinking "typical sexist ad geared towards stupid guys" when my brain does a spin because the final punch line is for the gals. Now everyone knows how impossible it is to market to both guys and girls so I have to hand it to the Bud Light team for doing it so brilliantly. (Not that I'm switching to Bud Light or anything...)

Monday, October 25, 2010


This network TV season has been so dismal, I'm flabbergasted. I'm talking about the new shows. There's almost nothing (Raising Hope is cute). Is there some kind of virus going around Hollywood that's exhausted all creativity? Even the new J.J. Abrams show Undercovers is like a lame rip-off of a J.J. Abrams show. What's going on? I was in complete despair until I accidentally tumbled upon Sherlock. Reading the promo, I didn't have high hopes, let me tell you. I mean, another retelling of the Sherlock Holmes tale? Come on!  So imagine my shock when I'm finding myself having some serious fun.

Sherlock is not from Hollywood.  It's a co-production of BBC Wales and WGBH for PBS's Masterpiece Mystery. The co-creators are two writers from the Russell T. Davies re-imagined Doctor Who series. And it's a little Doctor Who, a little graphic novel, a little Arthur Conan Doyle. At this point, I dread telling you the premise because it might turn you off:  Sherlock is now a modern guy with a nicotine addiction instead of heroin and he's a sociopath; Watson is an ex-army doctor who saw action in Afghanistan. Now here's the fun stuff:  smart dialog, rapid-fire delivery, great chemistry between Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) and Martin Freeman (Watson), a charming Rupert Graves as a hopeless detective, and a wonderfully batty Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs) who keeps singing, "Just this once, dear — I'm not your housekeeper!"

But see for yourself:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Tale Of Two TV Shows

The Defenders vs Hawaii Five-O (2010).

Both shows are mostly about guys doing guy things. Both shows try to be funny. Both shows have convoluted action. Both shows are boring. I keep thinking both shows should be good.

The Defenders have great leads who have real chemistry together. But everything else is so boring.

Hawaii Five-O doesn't even have that. The two male leads have zero chemistry. And it's not like they're not trying. God, they're trying. Make them stop trying. The two supporting characters are great though. Played by Daniel Day Kim and Grace Park, they make me miss Lost and Battlestar Galactica.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Yakult Loves Its Insides

This Yakult ad with a digestive system puppet is the friggin' weirdest ad ever.  Ever.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Friday Night Lights Season 4 End

Once again, the season end of Friday Night Lights has me all torn up.  What a roller coaster ride, from the exhilarating football game to the unbelievable sacrifice that Tim makes.  Again, the writing was so sophisticated, from the simple dialogue between Coach Taylor and an anxious, self-doubting Vince to the whole development of Tim's story — I mean, until the last five minutes, I was sure he was going to do a runner!

Boy, that football game was nail-biting!  Would the writers let poor Landry make that kick? Would they let poor Coach Taylor have one moment of victory?  Yes!  It was so nice to see Coach Taylor smile!  That's the great thing about FNL — you just never know what's going to happen.  How like life!

And what a beautiful scene that was, before the game, when Vince tells Coach Taylor he can't make the Coach's dream come true.  Does Coach give a rah-rah speech?  No.  He just asks Vince what he's doing for Thanksgiving dinner.  Instead of rah-rah, Vince got heart.  Now that's writing.

You can click here if you want to see the episode.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What Happened To The Queens?

Anyone know what happened to The Queens on ICN?  The grandson of the evil bitch is finally in power and now the shows disappears?  Instead, I'm stuck watching Go West and not really liking it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gary Numan in DieHard Battery Ad

So what do Gary Numan and DieHard Batteries have in common?  Cars, of course!  In this very clever ad, DieHard asks Gary Numan to perform his song "Cars" using about a dozen real cars powered by DieHard battery.  The look on Numan's face is priceless (oh, that's another ad...).

This comes via Boing Boing:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Friday Night Lights Emmy Snub

So the Emmy nominations were announced and Friday Night Lights wasn't included.  Again.  For the fourth time in a row.  Mike Hale of the NYT writes, "In the drama category, meanwhile, a terrible crime was committed, for the fourth season in a row. That’s the span during which “Friday Night Lights” has been, over all, the best drama on television, and has not drawn a single nomination for the best-drama award. Apparently the stigma of being a show about the relatively ordinary lives of Texans obsessed with high school football is still too much to overcome."

FNL is an unbelievably well-written, well-directed, well-acted show.  In the way it moves, FNL is more like a literary novel, little moments like marital fights so realistic, so uncompromising, so beautiful.  It really is hard to believe FNL is a TV show at all.  And apparently, the people behind the Emmy nominations don't see it as one either.

So what is getting nominated?  Dexter, True Blood, Mad Men, etc.  So I guess for FNL to get nominated they should (1) move to HBO, (2) turn Coach Taylor into a serial killer, (3) have Julie fall in love with a teen vampire, (4) hire Mad Men's costume designer Janie Bryant.  Whatever you do, FNL, don't touch the writing!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Queens

I've often wondered why Taiwanese dramas don't have the kind of following that Korean and Japanese dramas have. I suppose one problem is that very few of the Taiwanese dramas are translated into English — I usually have to go to sites like which stream in videos that have been translated by fans. These are great because the obsessive fans will even explain cultural contexts and puns. It's really too bad that TV production companies don't utilize their fans more. The production companies go so far as to see these fans as pests that need to be killed, when really, these fans are part of a huge network that make their products accessible worldwide and thus, even more popular. Yes, they're infringing on copyright, but thinking only of that is so stupid. These companies are petrified that they're losing money, but really, they aren't because none of us in the US would ever have known about these shows anyway. In reality, the production companies are losing money because of their closed-mindedness and sheer stupidity. What they really should be doing is advertising their complete boxed DVD sets on these sites, making it as easy as possible for us to buy these shows, either as DVDs or downloads.

Now what was I talking about? Oh, yes. Taiwanese dramas and my new favorite, The Queens, which is on ICN, evenings 7:30PM Pacific time. Hallelujah! It's subtitled! Not very well, but at least understandable (the person or program that did the subtitles has no understanding of the past or present tense).  I think The Queens is Taiwanese and that it was a huge deal in Taiwan.  "I think" because there's almost no info in English about these shows.  But with help from friends, I gather that the show is called 母儀天下, which roughly translates as "be the model mother of the nation".  Apparently, this is what you say to a Chinese empress, sort of like "God save the Queen".

The story is basically about a super nice girl who's thrown into a nest of vipers.  Will the super nice girl survive?  And if so, will she stay super nice?  The girl is Wang_Zhengjun and she's based an a real historical person, the Empress Wang_Zhengjun who ruled in the latter part of the Western Han dynasty.  But I think the name is about the only historically accurate part of the drama.  Like in the show, she's a maid, serving the royal concubines.  But she was more accurately a lady-in-waiting and not a maid, which makes her rise to empress a little bit more understandable.  But, you know, being a put-upon maid is so much more dramatic — like she can be unfairly tortured and have an implausible story about how her mom was wrongfully beheaded for killing a previous empress, etc.

The Queens isn't just about Zhengjun.  It's also about her five best friends and their relentless cat fights as they vie for the attention of the emperor.  Basically, this drama is chick flick with lots of vicious cat fights and gorgeous costumes with two hunky guys in the middle.  And there is something so sumptuous about this drama, in the lighting, the music, the language, the cinematography, the choreography — even a summer's stroll is exquisitely choreographed.  Watching this show is like being transported into a fairyland.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Is there anyone out there who doesn't like Doctor Who? How about The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?  Anyone out there who thinks combining the two would be most righteous?  Actually there is, and his name is Andrew Orton, and he's done a pretty amazing job.  Here's the video, which is via Cory Doctorow and Boing Boing.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Electricity Sings! Who Knew?

I'm going to have to admit something embarrassing right now: I watched America's Got Talent.  I felt like a Roman watching the circus, strangely titillated while waiting for the Thumbs of Death to show up.  Let's face it: we are the new Romans.  Crazy things come up on stage, like these guys who generate electricity while Darth Vader's theme is playing in the background.  What I later found out was that the machine they used is called a Tesla Coil and you can actually play it like an instrument.  The result?  Electricity sings.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Behind the Scenes of Nature's "Hummingbirds" Episode

Usually, behind the scenes stuff is pretty boring, something to fatten up a DVD package and nothing more. But this look at how Nature's "Hummingbirds" episode was shot is pretty interesting.  You should enjoy it whether you are a wildlife nut or a photography nut or both.  Or if you're just a plain nut, like I am.

This clip is also a clever marketing bid by PBS.

I hope this clip whets your appetite for the whole episode. Hummingbirds are amazing creatures. And I'm not being hyperbolic. Hummingbirds are the Albert Einstein of birds. Wish the series went a little bit more into that! But never fear, because I have a whole blog post about their spectacular behavior at Moving to LA.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Amazing John Lewis Ad

I love great ads.  Sometimes they're like a movie, or a poem, like this John Lewis ad.  Nothing to say, except, please watch.

ZWTV Cooking Show

I have a favorite cooking show. But I don't know what it's called, I don't know who the host is, and I can't understand a word (except hao, which means good). That's because my cooking show is on ZWTV, which seems to be a local Chinese station. I can't get any info because the only thing ZWTV translates into English is the ads, and only the addresses. Even the website is in Chinese and, apparently, untranslatable (I tried plugging in the URL at the Google translation site: nada).

Even without understanding the Chinese, I still find it riveting. Mainly because of the host, who is an absolute riot. The first half hour of the show is when she has guests — she really shines here, laughing, buffooning, teasing. On one recent show, she actually cried. At first I thought she was joking, but no, she was crying. The guest chef had made a chicken in a pressure cooker. At the bottom of the pot was an intense liquor of chicken broth. The host drank it, and almost instantly, started tearing up. I'm sure she was reminiscing about her childhood, about her mother or grandmother taking all day to prepare this dish, how the aroma and taste reminded her of all that love. She cried for a good five minutes. I couldn't imagine Martha Stewart or Julia Child doing that.

I think ZWTV is Taiwanese. And I've noticed that Taiwanese shows are really cartoony, very heavy with graphics and physical humor. Even this cooking show will often have cartoon bubbles sprouting out of the guest's head. It's such a fun show. And with food shows, I notice you really don't need to understand the language. So check it out if you get ZWTV.  In LA it's 57.9 and the cooking show is on at 9 in the morning on weekends.


My favorite reader found videos! Here's one.

Monday, May 3, 2010


I like Glee a lot.  It's sort of a scarier version of High School Musical, with half the program devoted to over-the-top MTV inspired music video sequences.  I know it's these sequences and the music that's enabled Glee to really break out — I mean, the Glee cast actual tours the country singing — but for me, what makes Glee stand out is the complete world it's created.  That's hard to do.  Very few creative enterprises succeed in creating a "world".  On TV, Mad Men does it.  Deadwood too.  And The SopranosCurb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage too.

So what's Glee's world like?  Nasty.  The world of the nightmare teenage high school years where no one ever feels like they fit in, even if they are super popular.  In Glee, the haves and have-nots duke it out.  Including the teachers.  And I love the teachers.  The hapless principal (and who hasn't experienced one of those).  The scary coach of the cheerleaders who's turned the high school into her empire because that's the only power she'll ever have (schools are full of those).  The counselor who's pretty nutty (Jayma Mays seems to be specializing in nutty).

Two of the creators of Glee worked on Nip/Tuck, and there is definitely the same wacky, edgy feel.  (Jessalyn Gilsig, who plays Terri, the crazy wife of the coach of the glee club, is also an alum).  Thus far, my only complaint is that the music sequences are just too predictably placed and too numerous.  I want to look forward to those, not groan, "Music sequence!".

So what's been the highlight?  Kristin Chenoweth.  I loved that singing duel between young, virginal Rachel and Chenoweth's alcoholic has-been April, both singing "Maybe This Time" ("The Rhodes Not Taken" episode).  You think high school is tough, kids?  Wait until you're a has-been and you're sucked dry of all hope.  You'll be longing for those frozen Slurpees.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Friday Night Lights 4th Season Premiere

Yeah! Friday Night Lights begins again this Friday, May 7, on NBC.  Clear your schedule for 8 pm.  Hope it's a good season.  It looks like half the cast will be new.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Gratitude of Bones

Kartika Review just came out with their fabulous Home issue.  OK, I am a little biased as my short story "The Gratitude of Bones" is included.  But it is a pretty cool issue with tons of wonderful things to read, including essays by Asian American artists on what home means to them.  To download the full issue, just click here!  And please read my story and say something nice in the comments because I'm a pretty sad charity case and am not too proud to beg. ;)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

American Experience: Dolley Madison

Ever since I was a kid, I was always fascinated by Dolley Madison, the wife of President James Madison.  I didn't know very much about her, just that she was amazingly plucky, a true hero of the War of 1812.  In fact, people generally don't speak about the War of 1812 except when talking about Dolley Madison.  So I was thrilled when American Experience featured Dolley in this week's program.  She is even more amazing than I had ever imagined, creating the role of First Lady single-handedly.  With charm, grace, and incredible astuteness, she brought civility and society to Washington D.C and changed American politics forever.

Unfortunately, the documentary is post Ken Burns and very paint-by-numbers with actors pretending to be key people.  But one of the commentators is the wonderful political journalist and writer Cokie Roberts (strangely, she's called simply "writer" on the show).  Luckily, you can watch the program at the pbs website.  For Dolley's sake, please go and watch if you already haven't!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Microsoft's Crystal Seems To Be Brain Dead

Here's the video and here's what she's really saying:

"I'm Crystal. Not long ago I had a thought, right in the back of my head. And it hurt. Because I'm brain dead and that's why I use Windows 7."

This is why Microsoft needs to fire everyone in their marketing department.  Now.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Carrie Fisher News

I just found out that Carrie Fisher might be coming to TV.  According to Entertainment Weekly, she's doing a pilot called Wright vs Wrong, alongside Cheryl Hines and Debra Messing.  It sounds like some sort of political satire.  Hines is a liberal pundit, Messing a right-wing one, with Fisher as Hines's manager.  I think that's right.  Anyway, I hope it's good because I love Carrie Fisher (I should have included her in my post about actors who should have their own shows).  I also hope she'll write a few of the scripts if the show takes off.  I suppose, though, it's too much to hope it'll be as sophisticated as Absolute Power, a deadly take on PR which starred Stephen Fry and John Bird.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Marriage Ref

After seeing the promos, I really didn't know what to expect.  It was coming from Jerry Seinfeld and friends, so I knew it was going to be kinda quirky.  What I wasn't expecting was carnival — like three-headed dog and woman with a beard stuff.  One couple is fighting over an iguana that the wife dresses and kisses.  Another couple isn't having sex because the man really wants to have sex with his mom.  Discussing the issues are comics (generally friends of Seinfeld like Larry David) and useless actors.  Not that the discussion matters because the ref, another comic friend of Seinfeld, decides completely on his own, using the couple's problems as a brief comic stand-up routine.

Okay — I laughed.  But I'm not sure if I should be laughing, because these couples aren't characters out of Seinfeld played by comic actors — these are real people who seem a little bit out of their depth.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Does Obama Really Want To Be President?

Of course, I'm not a Washington insider and I have absolutely no idea what's going on in President Obama's head, but here's the thing — Obama is on TV a lot.  And not just on Meet the Press or This Week or The Tonight Show.  But on sports shows commentating on the Georgetown basketball game.  And singing karaoke.  I'm beginning to think that the real reason Obama wanted to be President was just so he could be in front of a camera all the time.  Which makes me wonder:  does Obama really want to the president of the USA or does he really want to be the first lady?  Because that's what the first lady traditionally does — fluff media events to sideline the press while the president hunkers down in the White House trying to get things done.  Maybe he should trade jobs with Michelle.  She looks and acts a helluva lot more presidential than Obama.  She's kinda scary.  I bet she could get things done.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Kudos to Mad Men

Does Mad Men have an expert on all things British?  I was so impressed by the way they told Lane Pryce's story.  Here's this British guy, sent all the way to America by his British bosses just to do dirty work.  No matter how well he does his job, he'll never get ahead —he's basically stuck as the corporate henchman — and if you're British, you knew that the second he opened his mouth.  It's all in his accent, a nice upper middle class accent, an accent that tells his superiors that Pryce is not one of them.  No wonder Pryce loves NYC.  No wonder he jumps ship.  The Americans appreciate what he can do; his British bosses only appreciate his background — or lack of it.  You see, his bosses have aristocratic names like St. John (and if you're from the right background, you know that this very plummy name is pronounced Sin-Jin) and speak with Oxbridge accents.  They belong to clubs that Pryce would never be allowed to enter, except as a waiter.  Not only do they understand this at a subconscious level, but they expect Pryce to understand this and keep to his station.  Remember that little punk who came to take over Pryce's job?  The one who got his foot chopped off?  No experience, but right accent.  That's why he was getting Pryce's job.  And remember how explosively angry St. John got when he discovered Pryce's betrayal?  It was like his butler had walked into his bedroom at three in the morning and told him to fuck off.  It simply isn't done.

What I found so wonderful in all this was that the writers never tell you any of this.  If you understand the British class system, great!  If you don't, it doesn't really matter because all this is played seamlessly into the plot: Pryce isn't appreciated so there's the subtext for his actions.  I also love the fact that the American characters in Mad Men don't understand any of this either — and they don't care (a comment on American insularity and perpetual near-sightedness?).  This kind of sophisticated storytelling is unheard of on TV.  You don't even see it very much in "literary" novels.  So just who do these writers think they are, anyway?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's Not An Olympic Sport If...

To the Olympic Committee:

Here are some guidelines that I think you should enforce.

It's not an Olympic sport if ...

... you need to wear sequins to win

... you need a theme and a costume

... you need a broom.

Lupin the Third

So I'm watching the local free Japanese channel and I see this

and I think, "What the hell?" Everything about it caught my attention — the style of the animation, the clipped storytelling, the strange 70s feel of it all. Well, it turned out to be a cartoon called Lupin the Third and its provenance was truly strange. The cartoon series is based on a Japanese manga series written by Kazuhiko Kato whose pen name is Monkey Punch. The lead character, a thief, is Arsene Lupin III and he just happens to be the grandson of Arsene Lupin, who just happens to be a gentleman thief in a series of novels by the French author Maurice Leblanc. Because of the complicated intellectual property issues, for years, the cartoon couldn't be released outside the US under the Lupin name. OK. Is anyone still with me?

The plots are surreal and ridiculous. But the cartoon itself is an interesting drug trip. Below is a link to a full episode. Called "Farewell My Beloved Witch", it is truly, truly bizarre.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Good Wife

The Good Wife is doing really well here and in the UK. I'm not surprised. There's something very intriguing about it. Strangely, for me, the intriguing portion is not the family drama, which is dull, but the courtroom drama — and I've really come to hate courtroom dramas!

Basically, The Good Wife is a very sophisticated Agatha Christie — nothing is as it seems but it all gets figured out. I suppose part of the appeal is that there is just so little adult drama. I think we're all a little sick of whimsy and cutesy, the knowing voice overs, etc. But, sadly, as my post demonstrates, there isn't very much to talk about. Oh, well.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Actors Who Should Have Their Own Show

I nominate the following.

Ken Marino: in a nice surreal comedy where he can flex his incredible comedic/dramatic skills. Even though he's been on TV for years, I didn't really notice him until Reaper — the show was totally goofball, but not Ken and the way he portrayed his gay fallen angel, going from sweet to goofy to frighteningly evil in a mind's blur. He deserves so much more than an occasional anonymous bit part in shows like Greek. BTW, did I mention he's totally hot?

Christina Hendricks: I really liked her in Firefly, so how about a sci-fi adventure dramedy where her curves can literally kick some male ass.

John Slattery: in a comedy where he can play a total goofball who always gets the girl.

Conchata Ferrell: in a drama because this lady can seriously act. Seeing her sleepwalk through Two and a Half Men breaks my heart.

Harriet Sansom Harris: I really miss seeing her on TV; while she was delicious as Bebe in Frasier, I want to see her in a drama.

Wayne Knight: I don't care what he's in, he's always so great. Whether as the hateable Newman in Seinfeld or the lovable cop in 3rd Rock, he can always make you laugh.

Me. I'm not an actor, but I feel like I really need to be in a nice comedy. One in which you meet nice new people in nice cozy situations and everything always works out every half hour, where there's always a yummy catering truck and someone does my hair and make-up on a daily basis.