Phallic Phailure: Why HBO's "Hung" Left Me Limp
Monday, June 29, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Okay, okay, I promise that the title of this post is the first and last dick joke I'll make today. That having been said, don't expect the same courtesy from the new HBO show "Hung", which takes every opportunity to make juvenile penis jokes (sample joke: the get-rich seminar that inspires Ray to become a man-whore is led by a guy who encourages the audience to find their "special tool" that will help them succeed).

Now, I'm not going to get into a big debate about prostitution, how it's portrayed in Hollywood, why joking about having a pimp isn't funny, etc etc. For me, I hear "comedy + man whore" and think, "Yeah, I will watch that." So, I tuned in to the pilot episode last night to check it out.

The general premise of the show is this: Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane, a.k.a. "poor man's Aaron Eckhart") is a down-on-his-luck guy who happens to have a massive schlong. So he decides, as one does, to put his giant penis to good use as a male prostitute. Aiding him in this is Tanya (Jane Adams, a.k.a. "Niles' wife who he dumped for Daphne on Frasier"), who offers up her services as a pimp.

The pilot episode spends most of its time setting up how Ray ends up as a male prostitute. We find out that Ray is in financial trouble, has a shrew of an ex-wife (played by Anne Heche, who is looking... not so hot these days), and has recently suffered through a house fire that has forced him to live in a tent in his backyard as he struggles to find the money to pay for the repairs to the house. We are also reminded several times that Ray has a big dick, since... duh, that's the title of the show.

Long story short: Ray runs into Tanya, a former one night stand, at a get-rich-quick seminar. They have another one-night stand, there's a big stupid fight where Tanya is annoying and Ray is a prick, yadda yadda yadda, but the end result is that Tanya inadvertently inspires Ray to give male prostitution a try. He fails miserably - in the one moment that really kicked ass, we see the client peer through the keyhole at Ray, decide he's not worthy, and then reject him via a note slipped under the door with a 50 dollar bill clipped to it. Tanya pops up again, Ray shares the story with her, and she offers to help him market himself better. We leave the pilot episode with Ray agreeing to take Tanya on as his pimp.

Things I liked:
  • Thomas Jane is an appealing lead.
  • While his kids looked nothing like him, I appreciate that they're a little chubby, and the son is a total goth kid. In other words, they look like real teenagers for once.
  • The adventures of a man-whore has a lot of comedic potential.
  • Setting the show in Detroit is a brilliant idea and perhaps future episodes will show more about how the financial crisis has really destroyed that city.
Things I didn't like:
  • Ray is kind of a dick. The show constantly references what hot shit he was in high school, like that's supposed to give him some sort of right to be awesome for the rest of his adult life. His main grievance with his ex-wife's new husband seems to be that the new husband used to be a dork in high school. I'll quote Mo Ryan from the Chicago Tribune here: "Back when he lettered in three sports and was a prospect for the major leagues, Ray 'tasted and came close to greatness,' as he puts it in a voice-over. So?"
  • We're supposed to feel bad for him, but really... what kind of guy can't make ends meet on a teacher's salary in freaking Detroit, especially since he lives in his parents' old house (which I can only assume is completely paid for)? Most of his financial troubles seem brought upon himself. For example, he can't repair the house, because he was too lazy to keep up with his insurance payments. He's depressed that he can't lend his son fifty dollars for concert tickets, but somehow manages to find enough money to take one of those get-rich seminars that they host in stuffy conference rooms at the airport Howard Johnson.
  • He seems upset about losing custody of his kids, and we're supposed to think that Anne Heche's character is just being a big bitch about the whole thing. However, since Ray pretty much expected to kids to literally live in tents with him on his lawn (after his own negligence caused the fire that nearly killed them - too many cords plugged in, and battery taken out of the fire alarm), I'm not sure why any sane person WOULDN'T take Anne Heche's side here.
  • This might be just me, but is there that big of a market for a guy whose only skill seems to be the possession of a big dick? I mean, no one really talked much about his aptitude in the bedroom. Apparently just being well-hung is supposed to be enough for most women? I would have thought something like "super skilled forked tongue" would make more sense, but maybe HBO just couldn't come up with a pithy title to communicate that...
Overall, the show has potential, but the pilot episode failed to dazzle me. While I'll be giving it a few more episodes - since I believe that a show sometimes needs a few episodes to really find its feet - I'm not sure that this one is a "must watch" for me.

Episode 1 grade: C+
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Billy Mays Found Dead in His Home
Sunday, June 28, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist

Proving that weird things happen in 3s, reports are circulating right now that famed TV pitchman Billy Mays was found dead in his home this morning. This may or may not make the main news feeds, since people are still fixated on Michael Jackson's unexpected death a few days ago. However, in a bit of weird coincidence, both the King of Pop and the King of Pitchmen were only 50 years old when they died.

There's certainly a rash of celebrities dying before their time these days. Though Billy wasn't as famous as Farrah or Michael, you all still knew who he was - he helped put products like OxiClean and Orange Glo on the map, and had started breaking into D list fame via his new reality show "Pitchmen" on the Discovery Channel.

You can read about Billy's unlikely rise to fame in this article here by the Seattle Times (where I grabbed the picture above from).


(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)
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Stop Giving Sanford Credit, People
Wednesday, June 24, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Curious - I haven't seen the press conference, so I cannot say 100% for sure that Sanford wasn't moving in his admission that he had an affair. However, I am a bit surprised to see John Cole over at Balloon Juice and Josh Marshall over at TPM suggest that we ought to give Sanford a break here.

John Cole:
I don’t know if Sanford is a culture warrior or not, I’m assuming you would have to be as a Republican and chair of the RGA, but for whatever reason, I have to say I like the guy more than I did yesterday, even if he is a hypocrite. He is standing up there, owning his mistake, is not being evasive, and just laying it all out for everyone, and clearly this is a tough thing for him and his family. It is remarkably refreshing.
Josh Marshall:
In fact, while Sanford probably saw the end of his political career today and obviously deceived a lot of people -- and just acted profoundly irresponsibly with respect to his job as governor, let alone with respect to his wife and family, which is his own business -- I can't not give the guy some real credit. Unless there's a lot more we don't know, and it's hard to imagine what more there could be, he just came up there and leveled with his constituents. I'm not sure he had much choice. But that sounded pretty frank and total.

It's not a matter of ignoring or papering anything over. But it's worth remembering whoever it was who said that none of us deserve to be known or remembered only for our worst moments.

First things first - I want to address this, because it keeps popping up: the issue is NOT that he had an affair. I don't care. No one cares (well, except his family).

Here's a little scenario for you all to think about: Let's say you walk into your kitchen, and find your kid standing there. You ask him, "Hey son, did you eat all the cookies?" He says no. You point out the evidence: there's crumbs on his face, a shattered cookie jar at his feet, and he's got chocolate stains on his hands. He suggests that his brother was the one who must have broken the jar and eaten all the cookies. You then point out that his brother is away for the week at camp, and then point out that you happen to have a Nanny-cam set up, and you can see on the video that its him pulling the jar down and going to town. He finally says, "Okay, I totally ate the cookies."

Now... do you A) say "You know what, son? I admire your honesty. That took courage" and excuse him? Or do you B) put him in time out, lecture him on why lying is BAD, and otherwise discipline him?

The real issue here is the cover up and the lying. THAT'S the cookie jar. And I'm sorry... but you don't get credit for telling the truth, when it's pretty clear that that's the only option left to you (and it also appears that if you don't tell the truth, some reporter probably WILL, since there's always a paper trail with something like this). Facing up to the inevitable and taking control of the spin machine while you still can isn't courage. It's just politics as usual.
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Sanford Was in Argentina. Also, He Has A Bridge He's Dying To Sell You
Wednesday, June 24, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Right now, the current explanation as to the governor's whereabouts is that he was in Argentina, driving around by himself. It's a more plausible explanation than the previous story that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail (or "AT" as it's affectionately known).

Since 1+1 does not, as far as I know, equal 3, I find several elements of the latest update from the Sanford saga strange, however. First of all, let's look at the timeline (note, The State has a similar time line up at their own site):

Thursday, June 18
  • Governor Sanford leaves his mansion
Friday-Sunday, June 19-21
  • People are like, "Hey, you know who I totally haven't seen for days? Sanford. Where is that old son of a bitch?"
  • People apparently start looking for him, since someone went far enough to initiate a search using cell phone technology. (I'm extrapolating a bit here, but The State reported Monday or Tuesday that "Sanford’s last known location was near Atlanta late last week. A mobile telephone tower there picked up a signal from his phone, according to a source familiar with the situation." so I can only assume someone had to be working to make that happen way before the report was published.)
Monday, June 22
  • State Sen. Jake Knotts starts making waves about how no one knows where the governor is.
  • Lt. Gov Bauer asks Sanford's staff to put him in touch with the governor. He is rebuffed.
  • Sanford's wife Jenny admits she hasn't spoken to her husband in four days, does not know where he is, and offers a vaguely weak explanation that he was “writing something and wanted some space to get away from the kids.” (quote from: politico.com's post from the AP). People point out that it's weird to skip out on Father's Day with your family.
  • Late Monday, Sanford's spokesperson, Joel Sawyer, announces his staff knows where he is. They claim he's hiking the AT, and that he can only check in from the trail every so often. “Before leaving last week, he let staff know his whereabouts and that he’d be difficult to reach,” Sawyer said in a interview with The State.
  • The State reports that the governor's cell phone was last registered on the network somewhere in Atlanta much earlier in the week. This casts doubt on the AT story, as people correctly begin to point out that one does not travel to Atlanta if one wishes to get on the AT.
Tuesday, June 23
Wednesday, June 24
  • Sanford returns!
  • In an interview with The State, Sanford claims he was in Argentina. When questioned why his staff said he was on the AT, Sanford reportedly replies, "I don't know." He then later tries to recover by stating that he told his staff he "might be" on the AT.
What does all of this mean? There are some serious logic errors here that throw everything into doubt. Who's lying here and when?
  • On Monday, did Stanford's staff know where he was or not? Did they intentionally lie to the public about him being on the AT, or were they duped by Sanford as well?
  • If the staff really didn't know where he was, did he tell them on Tuesday when he allegedly checked in? If so, why didn't they correct the misconception that he was on the AT?
  • Is Sanford lying about being in Argentina? Argentina's customs and immigration department refuses to confirm or deny his presence in their country. Can Sanford produce proof (receipts, plane tickets, novelty bobble head from Buenos Aires, whatever) that he was actually in the country? The AP throws doubt on his explanation that he was taking a drive on the coast, noting: "Trying to make such a drive could frustrate a weekend visitor to Argentina. In Buenos Aires, the Avenida Costanera is the only coastal road, and it's less than two miles long. Reaching coastal resorts to the south requires a drive of nearly four hours on an inland highway with views of endless cattle ranches. To the north is a river delta of islands reached only by boat."

I'm going to go ahead and quote state Sen. Knotts here:
"Lies. Lies. Lies. That's all we get from his staff. That's all we get from his people. That's all we get from him. Why all the big cover-up?"
Indeed. Are Sanford and his staff quite possibly the WORST liars in the history of politics? I refer not to the magnitude of their lies (since it's undisputable that at least one person told a lie here), but rather the ineptitude with which they spun their lies. Sanford could have told his staff, "Hey, I'm taking a trip abroad for personal fun. Don't ask what kind of fun. I'll check my cell phone once a day." Why drop out of contact for 5 days? Also his staff, assuming they knew what he's really been up to, could have told a much more plausible story than "hiking the AT."

I think most people believe there's a cover up going on here. But what is he covering up?

Here are some of my favorite bits of totally wild, totally baselss speculation on what he might have been up to:

- From my friend, commenting on Monday when the AT was the last known location: "Maybe he's got a secret bear family up in the woods. Bear families need attention on Father's Day too, you know."

- Sanford was quoted that he chose Argentina because he "wanted to do something 'exotic.'" I'm guessing that by "something" he meant "a hooker" and by "to do" he meant... well, you know.

- Per Kressskin's hilarious article, he was really in Narnia.

- He was in rehab.

- He was off having an affair.

- He really WAS in Argentina, and secretly hunting Nazis.

- Had to be off the grid, because cell phones don't work well when traveling in the Crab Nebula. Because he's secretly a robot. From outer space. *Beep beep ribby ribby*

- Was time traveling in TARDIS with the good Doctor. Went to the year 2012 to evaluate his presidential chances (Status: after this weekend... not so good).
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Hey You! Watch This Show.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist

The decisions that go into whether a show lives or dies are often inscrutable. How does a fun, quirky cop drama like "The Unusuals" or a whimsical wonderful fantasy show like "Pushing Daisies" get canceled, while the same network then chooses to keep around shows like "Private Practice" or "Wife Swap" (or even worse, "According to Jim", which stayed on approximately eleventy-billion seasons)? It's a phenomenom that long time fans of good television, like myself, have resigned themselves to living with, unfortunately.

However, I'm super pleased that ABC's outstanding new sitcom "Better Off Ted" was miraculously saved from cancellation, and will debut in the ABC's mid season line up next year. Even better news - the network also decided that since they paid for a full 12 episodes to be produced, they might as well let us, you know... actually watch them all.

I've gushed about this show before. It's smart, well-written, and the acting is top notch. The lead character is Ted, who plays the straight man in the cast of mostly wacky characters. Jay Harrington does a good job and is quite winsome in the lead role.

However, it's the supporting characters who really steal the show. In particular, Portia di Rossi really shines as cold hearted, bottom-line oriented boss Veronica. Veronica gets some of the show's best zingers and plot lines. Viewers will also likely come to quickly love Phil and Lem, the two main scientists who serve under Ted in the R&D Department.

If you need to catch up, you can probably still watch the first 6 episodes of this show online (however, it's not required, as you should catch on fairly quickly). I recommend you watch, if nothing else, the "Racial Sensitivity" episode and the "Through Rose Colored HAZMAT Suits" episode.

Better Off Ted returns with new episodes beginning tonight at 9:30 pm ET/PT on ABC. Please, for the love of God, people, WATCH THIS SHOW. You won't be disappointed. Jace over at Televisionary has a sneak preview review of tonight's episode, if you really can't wait.

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The Mysterious Case of the Missing Governor
Tuesday, June 23, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Am I the only one who thinks it's incredibly bizarre that the governor of South Carolina has apparently gone AWOL?

The lieutenant governor couldn't figure out where Gov. Mark Sanford was. Calls from a state senator and close friend rolled to voice mail. Even his wife said she hadn't talked to him for several days.

The explanation came Monday night from his spokesman: The second-term chief executive was hiking along the Appalachian Trail "to kind of clear his head after the legislative session."

The article goes along to point out that apparently the governor may or may not be alone - it's unclear whether he took along security, and it seems that they have no way to get in touch with the governor in case of emergency.

Another bizarre twist - as stated, his wife wasn't even really sure where the governor was when questioned earlier in the week. And this quote from her certainly raised my eyebrows:

Jenny Sanford said Monday she had not spoken with her husband for several days, including Father's Day. The Sanfords have four sons.

"He was writing something and wanted some space to get away from the kids," she told The Associated Press while vacationing at the family's Sullivans Island beach house. A message left for her wasn't returned after the governor's hiking plans were disclosed.

Okay, I can understand needing a break from your kids sometimes. A parent's life is probably pretty hectic. But who the heck decides that the ideal time to take a break from his four sons would be over Father's Day?!

CNN.com also has a piece on the story. Apparently, lawmakers from both sides of the legislature are riled up. One of them makes a pretty good point:
"He needs to transfer the power and let the lieutenant governor, which the constitution requires, let him be the person that makes the decisions." Knotts said. "My concern was 'Who would be in charge should an emergency arrive for the safety of the people and citizens of the state?' "
Along those lines, the AP article notes:
Lt. Gov. Andrew Bauer said he'd been rebuffed by the governor's staff when he tried to find out where Sanford was and had not been put in charge in his absence.
From what I can tell, the response from the governor's staff has been (and I'm paraphrasing here, obviously): "Hey, don't sweat it. If we think there's trouble, we'll go ahead and let you know."

This is just beyond bizarre. I'm pretty sure it's inappropriate for a staffer to decide when to make the call that power needs to be transferred to the lieutenant governor. I'm also pretty sure that some of the histrionics from the other lawmakers is a bit over the top - should a true emergency arise, and should Sanford be unreachable, I'm pretty sure everyone would just turn to Bauer to look for a decision. Of course, I'm not 100% up to speed on how the South Carolina executive branch works, so feel free to correct me on the legality of that.

One final note: Sanford has been acting squirrely for some time now.

State Sen. Jake Knotts, a fellow Republican and adversary of Sanford, told CNN that South Carolina law enforcement officials informed him Saturday that the governor had taken a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division vehicle on Thursday and had not yet returned.

"I found out that he was taking frequent trips at odd times of the night in a SLED car with no security," Knotts said. "He would be driving. I got wind that he had taken another one of these types of capers last Thursday, and that nobody knew who he was with.

All of this should be deeply troubling to the people of South Carolina. Clearly, something is up with Sanford. Whether it's some kind of weird mental breakdown, or something as pedestrian as an affair, I have no idea. But should Sanford ever come down off the trail, I imagine he's going to have to do a loooooot of PR spinning.

Again, not familiar with how it's done in South Carolina, but one has to wonder whether the legislature needs to initiate some of kind of impeachment process or whatever they need to do in the event that the governor truly is no longer fit for duty.
Update: there are several great sites that I read all the time that have more coverage and commentary on this story:
- TPM

Sanford’s last known location was near Atlanta late last week. A mobile telephone tower there picked up a signal from his phone, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Since then, the governor’s state and personal phones had been turned off, and Sanford had not responded to phone or text messages, a source said. Most mobile phones cannot be tracked if they are turned off.

The article also confirms my earlier comment that in the event of a true emergency, Lt. Gov Bauer is empowered under the S.C. Constitution to assume decision making responsibilities.
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Finding Nema - Where Are The Girls in Pixar Films?
Monday, June 08, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Pixar studio burst onto the movie making scene in 1995, releasing the classic Toy Story, the world's first fully computer-animated feature film. It was an instant hit, and changed the face of animated films forever. Since that first movie, Pixar has since released 9 feature-length films:
  • A Bug's Life (1998)
  • Toy Story 2 (1999)
  • Monsters, Inc. (2001)
  • Finding Nemo (2003)
  • The Incredibles (2004)
  • Cars (2006)
  • Ratatouille (2007)
  • WALL-E (2008)
  • Up (2009)
Looking at the 10 films Pixar has released, a few similarities pop out almost immediately. First, all are uniformly excellent (save, perhaps, for Cars, which I personally found to be extremely mediocre in comparison to the others). Second, not a single film on that list features a lead female character.

This realization occurred to me personally when I went to see "Up" this past Saturday (review: A-). The film quickly introduces us to a spunky, adventurous female character, only to dispatch her within the first ten minutes. After that, it's an all-boy adventure (unless you wish to count "Kevin" - the female bird who doesn't speak - as a character).

This is not to say that Pixar doesn't include worthy female characters. But these characters are never the main focus - they're there to support the lead male character in whatever quest he's on. Most often, if you see a female, they're there either as a wife, mother or love interest.

Here's a breakdown of the notable female characters from each film, plus an overall feminist grade on the quality of the female characters:

Toy Story (grade C):
  • Bo Peep. Classification: Love Interest
  • Mrs. Potato Head. Classification: Shrill Wife
The girls just don't have a lot to do in this movie, frankly. The main characters are all male, and they are the property of a rambunctous boy.

Toy Story 2 (grade B-):
  • Bo Peep. Classification: Love Interest
  • Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl: Love Interest.
Jessie is a pretty good character. She's spunky and cool, plus she gets a good solo montage (complete with Sarah McLachlan song) that totally made me tear up. But in the end, she still mostly takes a second seat to Woody/Buzz and company, and must be rescued in the end.

A Bug's Life (grade: N/A):
I have to admit, I only watched this once, and barely, so I won't comment on the quality of the female roles. However, the protagonist of the film is clearly the Dave Foley character, and we're meant to see the action mostly from his perspective. I will give the film credit for having several female actors of note in the IMDB entry.

Monsters, Inc. (grade D):
  • Boo. Classification: Child in Peril
Another all-boy film for the most part. Boo, the human girl, doesn't speak in full sentences, and is sort of just there to get in trouble, so Sully and Mike can rescue her. She's adorable and hilarious, but isn't a particularly strong character.

Finding Nemo (grade B+):
  • Dory. Classification: Partner
Of all the Pixar films, I think Finding Nemo has the strongest female character in the form of Ellen Degeneres's blue regal tang Dory. She's not there as a stereotypical romantic lead, nor is she a mother. She's Marlin's wacky sidekick for most of the way, and she gets some of the best comedic moments in the film. Of all the Pixar character, Dory is the one I could most picture starring in her own story.

The Incredibles (grade B):
  • Elastigirl. Classification: Wife, Mother
  • Violet. Classification: Daughter, Petulant Teen
Elastigirl gets some good moments, and is a pretty excellent female role model. But ultimately the story is about a middle-aged guy getting his mojo back. Yes, Elastigirl and the kids learn to embrace their powers and Elastigirl also rediscovers the joy of crime-fighting, but I still feel like the real core of the story is about male midlife crisis.

Cars (grade D):

  • Sally Carrera. Classification: Love Interest
Look, I really am not a fan of Cars because it's mostly a Doc Hollywood ripoff. The main female character is just there to convince Owen Wilson's Lightning McQueen of the pleasures of small town life.

Ratatouille (grade C):
  • Colette. Classification: Love Interest
There's only really one female character of note, and she's not even the love interest for the central character. Colette gets points for being a strong woman (calling out Alfredo Linguini for messing up, etc). However, there are no female rats (as far as I can tell), and Colette is only there to support the other characters.

WALL-E (grade B):
  • EVE. Classification: Love Interest, Killing Machine
I can't really fault EVE for not speaking much, since neither does main character WALL-E. EVE at least seems like a formidable robot, judging from the destruction her laser beams did.

In my research for this post, I came across information that Pixar WILL be featuring a female character in a lead role for the film "The Bear and the Bow." Here's the rub though: she's a princess. Granted, from the description, at least at seems like she'll be somewhat feminist - the story involves her desire to be an archer, instead of just lounging around doing princess stuff all day - but ultimately this is still looking like a traditional fairy tale. It's tentatively scheduled for Christmas 2011, so we'll have to wait awhile before we can fully pass judgment one way or the other. However, I must say that I'm a touch apprehensive about the description that it's "Pixar’s first fairy tale." What I've loved about the Pixar films is that they aren't just for kids - there are some very adult themes in their works. I'd hate to have the first Pixar film featuring a female lead to be just another fairy tale.

Lastly, it appears I'm not the first person to notice the lack of female leads in Pixar's stuff: http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2009/06/dear_pixar_from_all_the_girls.html
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